Benji is only four years old, but the wearable baby trackers I discovered this evening make his infancy look like the stone age in comparison. Sure, I used TrixieTracker to track Jessie’s napping six years ago, but I had to enter all that data myself. Now, you simply dress your baby in a custom-made onesie or snap a band around her ankle and you can let your smart phone alert you if her breathing, body temperature or heart rate are not OK. The Sproutling ankle band, which isn’t actually available yet but plans to go to market later this year, will even let you know when your baby is going to wake up from her nap. To the minute, they hope.
And what about a Withings baby scale? Weigh your baby every day, every hour if you want, and hey, you can sync it with your Babynes capsule based baby formula machine (like Nespresso but for baby formula and even more expensive) which will graph how much milk your baby drinks. Or at least how much milk your Babynes makes. And you can edit it.
I remember when my eldest baby was about eight weeks I realized one of the other mums was going to the well baby centre a couple of times a week to weigh her baby, not just according to the set schedule – 2 weeks, 6 weeks, 12 weeks or whatever it was. I started going more often too, thinking that was what a good mother was supposed to do, until the nurse asked me why. There’s really no point in weighing a baby that often, she told me, unless you have a particular reason to be concerned. Weight fluctuates from day to day. Frequent weighing is more likely to make you nervous than not, which probably isn’t that great for your baby. I relaxed, and stopped worrying about it.
I’m honestly rather glad I don’t have babies anymore. I know I would be torn between desiring all those gadgets, all that data and thinking the whole thing was insane.
And look, the apps generate endless data, data like diaries. With predictive abilities. Maybe.
Reading my archives I feel sad that the commenting that was so key to blogs has disappeared, drifted off into closed conversations on Facebook that will be unsearchable and unfindable just a few weeks from now, and dotted around in truncated tweets. I wrote eloquently in 2001:
“How can we speak personally to one another and not be self-centred?” asks Jane Tompkins (in Kauffman, Gender and Theory). I think the clue is in the words “to one another” – and this is why blogs are so powerful: we write to one another. Blogs are always part of a context. We comment on one another’s writing, we comment on what we read, what we experience. Each post in a blog is anchored to a time (the time stamp, the immediacy, opinions in time rather than in a fictitious eternity) and to other writing (the links that posts revolve about) and to an individual. Blogs are personal, they are writing in context.
Are they still? Some blogs have certainly retained this. There are lots of comments on Soulemama’s post about gathering warm eggs from their hens, or on a sewing pattern posted at A Beautiful Mess,
Is it just academic blogs? Cyborgology is a blog I enjoy reading, but there are very few comments there – with the recent heated discussions on the posts about “seminal” being a sexist word being exceptions. danah boyd gets some comments, not too many (the post about the Oculus Rift being sexist got a pile – see a pattern here?) wrote last week about missing blogging, and is going to try blogging as part of a group called The Message at Medium. Medium has comments on each paragraph, which makes them a lot less visible (you have to click a number beside the paragraph to see them) and the discussion certainly becomes more fragmented than when comments are all on the whole text. Maybe I’ll get used to it.
I have to admit I don’t comment much myself these days. I read blogs – academic and other – regularly, but mostly on my phone with an RSS reader, and I rarely click through to the blog itself to comment.
Which academic blogs do you enjoy? Are there academic blogs that do have active comments?
My individual paper for IR15, the Association of Internet Researchers conference this year, was rejected. I’ll still be going, because I’m keen to join in all the selfie discussions we’re bound to have, because there’ll be lots of interesting papers, and (this is important for my getting funding to go to Bangkok!) because our workshop was accepted. Hooray! It’s going to be amazing, bunch of fantastic people working together on selfies with some really fun ideas – read the description here. I’ll post more about how to sign up for the online portion soon!
So I’m not too upset about the rejection, but seeing all the posts on Facebook from people complaining about random reviews from people not in one’s field I was thinking it would be useful if the review process was a lot more open. So I’m posting my proposal and the reviews I received. Maybe others will do so too, whether they were accepted or rejected – I’d love more openness about reviewing in general.
Re-reading my proposal, I must say it’s horrifically short and really doesn’t show much of the work or analysis I was trying to cram into it. I can see how it might receive poor reviews (although I think at least my middle reviewer probably recommended it be accepted – I’m going with that optimistic theory, anyway 😉 You’re supposed to submit 1200 words, which is far too long for an abstract but far too short for a paper. I wish they would simply ask for full papers instead.
I would really like to see the scores my reviewers gave me. Here, for instance, are the scores I assigned to one of the papers I reviewed – why not share these with the author?
The IR15 conferences are very cross-disciplinary, which is a strength, but also a challenge, especially for reviewing. I know the current committee has put a lot of thought into reviewing, and it must be an enormously difficult task to manage, with (I assume?) several hundred proposals to assess. Last year there was a lot of discussion on the AoIR mailing list about reviewing that is able to see different kinds of disciplines. It’s not simple to achieve.
I signed up as a reviewer myself this year, and was disappointed that the two papers I was assigned really weren’t in the humanities or on topics or using methodologies I am very familiar with. I think the problem was that I ticked the “Digital Humanities” box when I selected topics and methodologies I was able to review, and the papers I received were both tagged as digital humanities, but really weren’t. One did some image analysis (I felt confident reviewing that) and the other statistics. Of course I added notes to the committee on my (lack of) expertise in the field, and there’s also a number from 1-10 you can assign to your own familiarity with the topic. Perhaps familiarity with the method would be even more relevant.
I would love to hear from the conference organizers what the average number was for reviewers'”familiarity with topic”. That would be an interesting measure of success in assigning reviewers to papers they were competent to review. Another option would be tracks in the conference.
There are journals that have open peer review. Is there any reason a conference couldn’t do this? A problem might be that people would review familiar names more than the actual research, but you could alleviate this, at least to some extent, by have a quota for PhD students and even a quota for early-career researchers beyond the PhD. Or maybe this all gets too complicated – organizing a conference is a lot of work, and standard, blind peer review can easily be run using existing platforms.
Here’s my proposal: “Cultivate a good life and record it”: Self-Improvement Narratives in Selfies, Scrapbooks and Domestic Blogs. It is not an ethnographic piece, though two of the reviewers want more information about the women who took the course. I’m interested in the texts – primarily emails sent out to subscribers to the courses. And because I know that the AoIR has a reputation for excluding humanities approaches, I tried to explain that – but obviously not well enough. I wrote:
This paper uses two online courses to examine ways in which the domestic blogosphere shapes ways in which mothers strive to care for themselves, whether with or against the mainstream. I take a humanities approach, using literary, visual and rhetorical analysis of the course material and of texts and images shared in blogs and social media, as well as drawing on critical theory and historical context to make my argument.
Next time I submit a paper to AoIR I’ll be even more explicit – I didn’t actually say that I wasn’t doing ethnography, and I probably should have. Maybe next time I’ll even have the opportunity to submit a real, full paper instead of 1200 words!
Comments for the authors
This is a really interesting topic but I would have liked more explanation of the authors’ own approach and methodology – did they sign up for these courses themselves? Did they approach any users of the services? Did they speak to anyone behind them? How popular are the two sites discussed? Do they have many users? Why were they chosen?
The author makes statements such as ‘For many women these courses’ clear breaks with the conventions of only presenting the perfect life rather than self-portraits or images of housework is no doubt important’ but this seems like speculation – I don’t see evidence they have actually spoken to the women involved within this abstract. I would also like to know why the emphasis is on ‘mothers’ specifically, and if we are dealing with a particular group of women (e.g. nationality/age/sexual orientation/ethnicity) – either in terms of actual user base or in terms of who the sites are hoping to attract.
Although the examples mentioned could be potentially interesting, I would have liked more discussion of why they are significant and how this paper would differ from other literature on blogging, particularly the growing body of work (mainly US-centric) on ‘mommy blogs’ and similar practices.
Comments for the authors
This is a nicely conceptualized study that considers the hot topic of “selfies” in relation to online self-improvement courses specifically aimed at (privileged white U.S.?) women. As my parenthetical comment notes, the author needs to locate the subjects of this study in relation to privilege, ethnicity, and nationhood even if in this case the author is particularly interested in the ways in which subjects utilize these self-improvement courses to overcome a sense of their own powerlessness and invisibility.
Ethnicity, race, nationality and economics are present here even if (or perhaps especially because of) their absence in the observed courses and self-presentations. Such critiques will be especially important in the context of Bangkok. This promises to be an interesting study and one that will garner attention due to the fact that it relates to a “hot topic.”
Comments for the authors
The cases are interesting, but would have liked to have seen the author weave together a more coherent theoretical grounding on which to base a study of these two courses – at the moment, this proposal lacks a deep clarity of argument that would mark a strong proposal.
This blog post was selected for the “Editor’s Choice” section of Digital Humanities Now. Thanks!
It’s much, much easier to see patterns and to make visualizations that make sense when you filter out all the messy bits. In my data set of creative works cited by dissertations on electronic literature between 2002 and 2013 the messy bits are all the works that are only cited once. The dissertations cite 467 different works, and 354 of these are only cited by one dissertation. If you’re doing a network analysis, the most interesting thing is works cited by several dissertations, and that’s what the images in my last post show. But of course that perspective might be missing out on important things – and perhaps this is especially important in an international, multi-lingual field like electronic literature.
Here’s a graph of all creative works cited. If you click through you’ll get a much larger image, but I’m afraid it’s still hard to read all the work titles. You do get an idea of how many works are cited, though.
Interestingly, dissertations written in the same language don’t necessarily share citations. Serge Bouchardon’s 2005 dissertation cites many French works, but its shared references with French-Canadian Anaïs Guilet’s 2013 dissertation are all English language works. The three dissertations written by Italians (Giovanna di Rosario 2011; Fabio de Vivo 2011; Ugo Panzani 2012) are far apart on the graph, which shows they don’t cite many of the same works. The Scandinavian authors (Mette-Marie Zacher Sørensen 2013; Fagerjord 2003; Anne Mangen 2006; Maria Engberg 2007; Jill Walker 2003; Anders Sundnes Løvlie 2011) don’t seem particularly connected by language either, perhaps because many of them have focused on English language works.
The dominance of English as an academic language may lead more young scholars to write their dissertations in English, and perhaps therefore prefer to discuss English language works. Also, of course, more scholars can read dissertations and other scholarship written in English, which may lead to a “rich get richer” scenario where works written in less commonly spoken languages get even less attention than they might.
There might also be a bias against smaller works, such as poetry. For instance, Portuguese author Rui Torres’s works are cited by at least two dissertations (Fernanda Bonacho 2013 and Giovanna di Rosario 2011) but because different works are cited none of Torres’ works show up in the filtered graph that only shows works cited by at least two different dissertations. In a Facebook discussion, Carolyn Guertin, who completed her dissertation in 2003, also noted that her dissertation committee had required her to cite “booklike works”, due to a lack of familiarity with electronic literature at the time. Codework such as Mezangelle’s work is also hard to track in terms of citations to individual works.
Also, as I share these images and analyses, I keep hearing about more dissertations. For instance, Alvaro found four Brazilian dissertations that he will add next week, and Nick sent me word of another dissertation on interactive fiction that would have been very relevant – but I can’t keep re-doing the visualizations, I have to finalize this paper and accept that it’s partial and incomplete.
It’s fascinating to see “the big picture”, but ultimately, this is only one big picture view of electronic literature. I look forwards to seeing others.
These two visualisations show the shift in the kinds of works discussed in dissertations on electronic literature. There’s been a clear movement towards digital poetry and also towards more specialized dissertations that discuss a single subgenre.
The picture changes significantly in the next batch of dissertations, which was published between 2009 and 2013. 24 dissertations are included here, and as in the other graphs, you can see the dissertations in blue. There are more distinct groups of work here, and two clear groups of poetry. In the upper left we see a lot of poetic installations. Jeremy Shaw’s The Legible City (1989) and Romy Achituv and Camille Utterback’s Text Rain (1999) are bridge between the web texts and these works, which as you can see are connected largely because they are discussed by both David Jhave Johnston and Fabio de Vivo in their 2011 dissertations. The fact that just two dissertations can make such a clear “genre” or at least cluster appear shows both strengths and limitations of this method, of course.
We also see that interactive fiction has shrunk, though it remains a clear grouping. Leavenworth and Hutchison wrote dissertations on IF in this period, but did not cite works as prolifically as Montfort, Douglass and Mateas, so not as many individual works show up.
More in the paper
Last year, at ELO2013 in Paris, I presented a network analysis of creative works of electronic literature cited by PhD dissertations in the field. I’m revising the paper for publication in the Electronic Book Review next month, and I’ve added lots more dissertations to the data. Spreadsheets and Gephi are starting to drive me mad, but I’m getting there!
Here’s a list of the 44 dissertations in my data sample. In total they cite 467 different creative works of electronic literature. Sorry there are no links, but you can find entries for all these in the ELMCIP Knowledge Base, and each entry includes links to entries for the works they cite. Many of the dissertations also have full text available.
|Michael Mateas||Interactive Drama, Art, and Artificial Intelligence||2002|
|Anders Fagerjord||Rhetorical Convergence: Earlier Media Influence on Web Media Form||2003|
|Carolyn Guertin||Quantum Feminist Mnemotechnics: The Archival Text, Digital Narrative and The Limits of Memory||2003|
|Jill Walker||Fiction and Interaction: How Clicking a Mouse Can Make You Part of a Fictional World||2003|
|Scott Rettberg||Destination Unknown: Experiments in the Network Novel||2003|
|Anna Gunder||Hyperworks: On Digital Literature and Computer Games||2004|
|Donna Leishman||Creating Screen-Based Multiple State Environments: Investigating Systems of Confutation||2004|
|Edward Maloney||Footnotes in Fiction: A Rhetorical Approach||2005|
|Cheryl E. Ball||A New Media Reading Strategy||2005|
|David Ciccoricco||Repetition and Recombination: Reading Network Fiction||2005|
|Roman Zenner||Hypertextual Fiction on the Internet: A Structural and Narratological Analysis||2005|
|Serge Bouchardon||Le récit littéraire interactif. Narrativité et interactivité||2005|
|Anne Mangen||New narrative pleasures? A cognitive-phenomenological study of the experience of reading digital narrative fictions||2006|
|Noah Wardrip-Fruin||Expressive Processing: On Process-Intensive Literature and Digital Media||2006|
|D. Fox Harrell||Theory and technology for computational narrative: an approach to generative and interactive narrative with bases in algebraic semiotics and cognitive linguistics||2007|
|Jeremy Douglass||Command Lines: Aesthetics and Technique in Interactive Fiction and New Media||2007|
|Jessica Pressman||Digital Modernism: Making it New in New Media||2007|
|Maria Engberg||Born Digital: Writing Poetry in the Age of New Media||2007|
|Nick Montfort||Generating Narrative Variation in Interactive Fiction||2007|
|Cheri Crenshaw||Exploiting Kairos in Electronic Literature: A Rhetorical Analysis||2008|
|Hans Kristian Rustad||Tekstspill i hypertekst. Koherensopplevelse og sjangergjenkjennelse i lesing av multimodale hyperfiksjoner||2008|
|Andrew Hutchison||Techno-historical Limits of the Interface: The Performance of Interactive Narrative Experiences||2009|
|Daniel C. Howe||Creativity Support for Computational Literature||2009|
|Florian Hartling||Der digitale Autor. Autorschaft im Zeitalter des Internets||2009|
|Markku Eskelinen||Travels in Cybertextuality. The Challenge of Ergodic Literature and Ludology to Literary Theory||2009|
|Zuzana Husárová||Písanie v interaktívnych médiách. Digitálna fikcia /Writing in the Interactive Media. Digital Fiction||2009|
|Leonardo L. Flores||Typing the Dancing Signifier: Jim Andrews’ (Vis)Poetics||2010|
|Van Leavenworth||The Gothic in Contemporary Interactive Fictions||2010|
|Anders Sundnes Løvlie||Textopia: Experiments with Locative Literature||2011|
|David Jhave Johnston||Aesthetic Animism: Digital Poetry as Ontological Probe||2011|
|Fabio De Vivo||eLiterature, analisi critica, strumenti interpretativi, potenzialità e possibilità applicative||2011|
|Giovanna Di Rosario||Electronic Poetry: Understanding Poetry in the Digital Environment||2011|
|Jukka Tyrkkö||Fuzzy Coherence: Making Sense of Continuity in Hypertext Narratives||2011|
|Luciana Gattass||Digital Literature: Theoretical and Aesthetic Reflections||2011|
|Maya Zalbidea Paniagua||Reading and Teaching Gender Issues in Electronic Literature and New Media Art||2011|
|Rulon Matley Wood||Hypertext and Ethnographic Representation: A Case Study||2011|
|Talan Memmott||Digital Rhetoric and Poetics: Signifying Strategies in Electronic Literature||2011|
|Holly Dupej||Next Generation Literary Machines: The “Dynamic Network Aesthetic” of Contemporary Poetry Generators||2012|
|Jeneen Naji||Poetic Machines: an investigation into the impact of the characteristics of the digital apparatus on poetic expression||2012|
|Jennifer Roudabush||Theorizing Digital Narrative: Beginnings, Endings, and Authorship||2012|
|Ugo Panzani||“I think, therefore I connect”. Database, connessionismo ed esopoiesi nel romanzo anglo-americano (1995-2011)||2012|
|Anaïs Guilet||Pour une littérature cyborg : l’hybridation médiatique du texte littéraire||2013|
|Fernanda Bonacho||A Leitura em Ambiente Digital: Transliteracias da Comunicação||2013|
|Mette-Marie Zacher Sørensen||Digital Poesi. Æstetisk Analyse og det Mediales Rolle i Kunstværkers Kommunikation||2013|
This is all the dissertations on electronic literature between 2002 and 2013 that I’ve been able to find minus the following 12, which I couldn’t include because I either couldn’t access the full text, couldn’t read them (I could sort of read the German in Lang’s dissertation on Chinese electronic literature, but I couldn’t find anyone who could help me with the Chinese, and all the creative works referenced are in Chinese) or there were no links to creative works of electronic literature.
|Belinda Barnet||Lost in the Archive: Vision, Artefact and Loss in the Evolution of Hypertext||2004|
|Christy Dena||Transmedia Practice: Theorising the Practice of Expressing a Fictional World across Distinct Media and Environments||2009|
|Clara Mancini||Towards Cinematic Hypertext : A theoretical and Empirical Investigation||2003|
|Gavin Stewart||A homecoming festival : the application of the dialogic concepts of addressivity and the awareness of participation to an aesthetic of computer-mediated textual art||2006|
|Lisbeth Klastrup||Towards a Poetics of Virtual Worlds. Multiuser Textuality and the Emergence of Story||2003|
|Lori Emerson||The Rematerialization of Poetry: From the Bookbound to the Digital||2008|
|Mark C. Marino||I, Chatbot: The Gender and Race Performativity of Conversational Agents||2006|
|Mirona Magearu||Digital poetry: Comparative textual performances in trans-medial spaces||2011|
|Wilton Azevedo||Interpoesia: Le Debut de L’ecriture en Expansion||2009|
|Wilton Azevedo||Interpoesia: o Inicio da Escritura Expandida||2009|
|Xiaomeng Lang||Der Dialog der Kultur und die Kultur des Dialogs: Die chinesische Netzliteratur||2008|
|Zoltàn Szüts||Szellem a gépben. A hypertext||2007|
It would be interesting to do even more with the data. I really regret having shaved the data too much when I imported it into Gephi – I should have kept more of the metadata, but at the time I thought of it as a mess that would just complicate the affair. Now, though, I don’t have publication years or the university the PhD was granted by or the language it was written in, and so I can’t easily see how patterns of citation may have changed over time, or how geography, language or institutional links may affect citation practices. It’s pretty obvious that the French cite French works and the Portuguese Portuguese language works, but I have no idea whether the British cite different works from the Americans, for instance. The data’s all in the Knowledge Base. But I’d have to re-export it and there are way too many fiddly bits for me to do that right now. Maybe it’s good to have some questions still open for another time or another person to answer.
Here are all the creative works that are cited by at least two dissertations, along with links to the dissertations that cite them.
Did you see SELFEED yet? It’s an art project by Tyler Madsen, Erik Carter, & Jillian Mayer, that quite simply displays a live feed of the recently posted photos tagged #selfie that are posted to Instagram. Here’s an animated gif showing a random selection of just a few of the selfies that came up when I watched it this afternoon:
My first thought on seeing it was that the images are much more different from each other than the images in Manovich’s Selficity.net project. Here are some of the Selfiecity images:
On checking Selfiecity’s methodology, of course I remembered that they deliberately only looked at single person selfies:
We randomly selected 120,000 photos (20,000-30,000 photos per city) from a total of 656’000 images we collected on Instagram. 2-4 Amazon’s Mechanical Turk workers tagged each photo. For these, we asked Mechanical Turk workers the simple question “Does this photo shows a single selfie”?
We then selected top 1000 photos for each city (i.e., photos which at least 2 workers tagged as a single person selfie).
You can say a lot about the methodology of this kind of research, and especially the biometric analysis that follows (Terri Senft called it a kind of phrenology ;), but obviously if you’re trying to understand selfies and eliminate any images that show anything but a single person you’re ruling out a lot of images. The self-described selfies that the Instagram #selfie tag shows are an interesting counterpoint.
So what is a selfie? Is it what the person taking the photo says it is in the hashtag, or is it what Selfiecity – and, I think, mainstream media – say it is?
I’ve been collecting reasons people say they take selfies, much as I’ve previously collected blog posts about why people blog. Of course, there are hundreds of media articles about why people take selfies, many derogatory – instead I wanted to read what selfie-takers themselves write. It’s a potentially skewed methodology because most people who write about why they take selfies (especially in a society where selfies are so often mocked) are writing justifications and defenses. To hear from people who take selfies despite not really feeling good about taking selfies I would need a different method than searching google (interviews, perhaps), but given how poorly represented the justifications and defenses of taking selfies are reported in mainstream media I think it’s valuable to really look at them.
So many people taking selfies argue that they are able to see and believe in their own beauty due to taking photos of themselves. The beauty blogger Elle Sees writes movingly about how she has received comments about her nose making her ugly since she was in fifth grade (and even as an adult), and it was only after taking selfies for her blog for a few months that she has felt comfortable with her appearance. She writes:
You must be conceited if you post them, right? I lose followers whenever I post a pic of myself. But I don’t see it as conceited when I post them. I see it as a victory. (Elle Sees, “On Why I Take Selfies, and 3 More Beauty Things I’m Not Apologizing For“, Jan 15, 2014.)
This is almost exactly the same rationale given by Woman Verging in her Tumblr post “Why I Take Selfies (and why you can f-cm yourself).
Elle Sees clearly manipulates her selfies, both by intentionally blurring or adding filters, and by using carefully planned makeup specifically for photos. Amy Palko writes in more detail about how manipulating her selfies is important in her selfie-taking practice. It gives her distance, she writes:
I started taking selfies last year. I wasn’t really sure why at the time. It started as a daily practice. A way of exploring self-image, something that I, like almost every other person I know, have a complicated relationship with. Using Pixlr, I began adding layers, textures, colours and frames. It gave me distance. I was no longer playing with a self-portrait. I was playing with line and form. I found that I could appreciate the finished creation in a way that I couldn’t always do when I looked at the image reflected back to me in the mirror. (Amy Palko, “Why I Take Selfies“, Feb 14, 2013)
Palko also separates her reasons for taking a selfie from her reasons for sharing them:
And yes, I totally get that some might look at the practice of creating selfies and assume that I’m completely self-absorbed, and that by sharing them I’m looking for some kind of validation. But that’s not it. That would be to miss the point altogether. When I share the selfies, it shifts from a practice of self-discovery to a practice of vulnerability. I often feel incredibly tender when I share a selfie. It’s not easy to share these images. It wasn’t when I started. And it’s still not now.
So why do I take selfies? I take them to heighten my own self-awareness and to discovery new sides of myself.
Why do I share them? To create breathing space in the experience of vulnerability. And to give you permission, should it be needed, to start a similar practice. ((Amy Palko, “Why I Take Selfies“, Feb 14, 2013)
Finding self-acceptance is a commonly expressed reason for taking selfies, and there are a number of online courses that emphasize selfies as a method for self-improvement and self-acceptance. Palko, cited above, offers coaching and business guidance. Stephanie Gagos is a life coach, and emphasizes similar reasons behind her own self-portrait practice:
It’s not about vanity, or being conceited. One might think that if you look at my Instagram feed as I post many of them there.
It is about witnessing my own beauty, understanding who I am beyond the face, growing more and more in love with who I am as I age, learning to work with what I have and seeing beyond the flawed and broken human being I’ve always thought myself to be.
It is an act of coming home and reclaiming my SELF. (Stephanie Gagos, “Why Selfies Heal“, Oct 30, 2013)
Self-discovery and self-acceptance certainly aren’t the only reason to take selfies. Jenelle Dufva writes that she takes selfies for entertainment or because she’s bored, but mostly for memories:
I take selfies because I think it’s entertaining. I take selfies because I like to write stupid captions underneath my photos on Instagram. I take selfies on days when I feel like I look really nice and maybe I want other people to see how cool my eyebrows look. I take selfies because I get bored when I’m alone all the time. But mostly, I take selfies for memories and I think that’s something that really gets me about people hating on selfies all the time. My opponents reading this are probably like, “What? You like to remember how your own face looked on a certain day?” And my answer to you is yes, opponent. Sometimes my lipstick looks nice and I want to remember that. Me taking a photo of my face is not a political statement (it can be though – I’ll get to that later), it’s a simple photo that I wanted to put on the internet for that reason, and for that reason alone – because I wanted to. And that should be okay because it isn’t up to anyone else to decide what I put on the internet. It’s my decision. (..) If you don’t wanna selfie, you don’t gotta selfie. But don’t judge people that do because it’s just a fucking PHOTO and it’s not your life. (Jenelle Dufva, “Whatever: A Short Analysis of the Selfie“, Jan 29, 2014)
Boredom is also one of Jessica Isme Yoga’s key reasons for taking selfies, and she also notes that selfies of herself with her dog have become important to her after the dog came into her life, and she imagines that parents feel the same urge to have photos of themselves with their children.
Remembering a moment is obviously also an important, whether it’s a moment with a friend, lover, pet or child; a moment where you’re happy with the way you look or your new hat or hairdo; or a moment in a place you want to remember or doing something you want to remember. Tracy Antonioli, who blogs at The Suitcase Scholar, decided to summarize her year of travels by posting a selfie for each month, and explains:
I take selfies not because I think I’m beautiful (I’m not, as I will prove more than a dozen times below), but because I often find myself in beautiful locations and I want to capture a moment of my own joy in said beautiful location. Thus, my selfies are often (nay, only) taken in places that I love. (The Suitcase Scholar, “Travels in 2013: The Year of the Selfie“, Dec 28, 2013)
The personal and the political can certainly mix in selfies, whether through campaigns where people share political messages by posting a selfie with a certain gesture, hashtag or poster (a visual petition – selfies are today’s signatures) or as a personal act of affirmation or rejection. “stavvers”, who blogs at Another angry woman explains that she has been photographed against her will, by a male abuser and by the police, who she says use photographing suspects as a means of power, and she relishes the selfie because she is in absolute charge herself:
I suppose I started taking selfies when I realised there were some things that words couldn’t articulate well, and what I needed to say was best said with my face and body. When putting a webcam or a front-facing camera in front of me, I can see exactly what I look like, and make sure, before taking the snap that I look how I want to look and I am communicating what I want to communicate.
And that’s why I take selfies. Because it’s me presenting myself to the world in the way I want to be presented.
The self-acceptance that Elle Sees and Amy Palko write about in the quotes in the beginning of this post becomes far more explicitly political in the #feministselfies movement that developed in response to Erin Gloria Ryan’s firmly anti-selfie article in Jezebel last November, where she sees selfies as “a reflection of the warped way we teach girls to see themselves as decorative.” (“Selfies Aren’t Empowering. They’re a Cry for Help.”)
When you take, and post, a selfie you are actually doing something radical, you are saying I like myself enough to let others see me. Imagine the entire industries that would vanish overnight if women started liking themsves? It would change the nature of advertising, and close the Daily Mail! Jemima2013, “Rebecca, Celebrity, and Selfies“, Nov 22, 2013.
For people who are not white, thin and young, the abundance of selfies also quite simply allows us to see more images of a far wide range of people.
Because, as Jemima2013 writes, selfies show that “‘ordinary’ looking women are worth photographing and looking at.” And you can look “ordinary” in many, many, many different ways.