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

Derek Murray derekconradmurray6719 at gmail.com
Mon Apr 6 10:38:11 AEST 2015

Thanks Soraya. I first want to clarify that I consider the term
"selfie" to be extremely problematic for various reasons, first being
its trivializing dimensions. It is a term meant to ridicule and
demean. But perhaps more pernicious are its gendered connotations,
which largely malign young women's use of technology. There is a
contradiction between the legitimation of the word "selfie" (it was
the Oxford Dictionary word of the year for 2013) and the complete
condemnation of the act itself. The gesture to compulsively self-image
is regarded as an expression of narcissism and self-loathing. However,
when looking at social media platforms like Tumblr, we see the
mobilization of self-imaging as a political, activist, and
oppositional tool—and as a means to build community and construct
counter-narratives that challenge the repressive logics of advanced
capitalism. I hesitate to characterize this movement (and
activist-oriented social media participation in general) as
"revolutionary"—though, I do believe that it expresses a profound
desire for recognition and is effective as a means to legitimate and
make visible those subjectivities whose lived experiences are normally
silenced. What was most unexpected about this research was the sheer
number of women of color internationally that utilize social media
(and blogging culture in particular) to self-image and to build a
sense of community. These organic communities can be quite radical and
take on a range of issues: gender and racial discrimination,
homophobia, sex positivity, immigration, economic inequality,
Neo-Capitalism, etc. Online forms of self-imaging is a
representational tool commonly utilized by millenials as a part of
their activism—and we see this type of visualization across the
boundaries of cultures and identities. However, my current interest is
in the feminist interventions of young women of color on social
media—and the manner in which self-imaging functions as a potent means
to challenge erasure, as well sexual, racial, and gender-based forms
of oppression and misrepresentation.

This research will be published in a forthcoming essay entitled:
“Notes to Self: The Visual Culture of “Selfies” in the Age of Social
Media," Special Issue: Consumption Markets & Culture Journal, Theme:
Communicating Identity/Consuming Difference, ed. Jonathan Schroeder,
(Routledge Press, 2015) Forthcoming.

I would be interested to know if any of you have encountered such
representations in other online activist contexts?


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