[-empyre-] Welcome to April on -empyre: Digital Media and the Interstices of Identity.

Derek Murray derekconradmurray6719 at gmail.com
Fri Apr 3 06:30:40 AEDT 2015


I am currently working on a research project that explores the
cultural fascination with social media forms of self-portraiture,
commonly known as ‘selfies’, with a specific interest in the
self-imaging strategies of young women in their teens and early
twenties. Ubiquitous on social media sites like Facebook, Tumblr,
Flickr and Instagram, the ‘selfie’ has become a powerful means for
self-expression, encouraging its makers to share the most intimate and
private moments of their lives—as well as engage in a form of creative
self-fashioning. Popularly regarded as a shallow expression of online
narcissism, the ‘selfie’ is both adored and reviled; yet it flourishes
as one of the most effective outlets for self-definition. Through a
critical engagement with a history of feminist representational
politics, this paper explores the political urgency at the heart of
the ‘selfie’ phenomenon, and contemplates whether the urge to
compulsively self-image is mere narcissism, or a politically
oppositional and aesthetic form of resistance.

The central aim is to give insight into a very contemporary discussion
about the impact of technology and social media as a means to
disseminate and share images. The term ‘selfie’, in its popular usage,
is meant to delineate a very particular engagement with technologies
of image making—specifically, the spontaneous self-portrait, taken
with a range of consumer-based devices: smart phones, tablets, laptop
computers, as well as digital and film cameras. In the digital era,
personal cameras have become so ubiquitous, that compulsive
self-imaging is engendering a new consumer-based language in the
visual realm. In addition, social media platforms enable the easy and
spontaneous dissemination of images—a phenomenon that has led to
public debate about the potential corrosive effects of technology on
our individual and collective selves. Often discussed as a negative
consequence of capitalist consumer-based consumption, the ‘selfie’
appears to represent a critique of youth who have become subsumed
within a troubling consumerist fixation with the superficiality of
self-imaging and the cult of personality.

The consequences of this characterization are what concern me most,
specifically the gendered implications that link young women,
self-obsession, and what could be described as an insatiable
consumerism—that according to Joan Acocella, has “made Americans,
especially women, dependent on commercial products,” consumed by
narcissism, and ultimately deprived of self-reliance (Acocella). The
popular sentiment is that ‘selfies’ are the product of a combustible
mixture of media fixation, capitalism, and narcissistic
self-absorption. In this investigation, my aim is to produce a
productive counter-reading of the ‘selfie”, one that advances the
possibility that popular forms of female self-imaging (particularly by
a range of marginal constituencies) may offer the opportunity for
political engagement, radical forms of community building—and most
importantly, a forum to produce counter-images that resist erasure and


More information about the empyre mailing list