Did you see SELFEED yet? It’s an art project by Tyler MadsenErik 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:

selfies-from-selfeed-animated-gift-april16-2014

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:

selfies-from-manovich-selfiecity.net

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?

 

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