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Response, Stories of the Self

Let me take a #groupselfie: A Reflection on my #selfie practices

We’ve talked a lot about #selfies and the generalized genres we see in them, such as haircut selfies, weight loss selfies, or mirror selfies.  I came at this from a very confused standpoint. This was, of course, not because I don’t take selfies, but instead, I don’t participate in genres with a single selfie subject. Instead, I usually opt for group selfies. This genre was popularized by the infamous 2014 Oscar selfie. The most retweeted photo in history displays a certain spontaneity, portrays a sense of belongingness between those pictured, and indicates presence at a cultural function. Following this, it can be said that the purpose of group selfies is two-fold: 1) to indicate belongingness with a particular group and 2) to indicate presence at a place or event. Either way, they indicate an ownership of a time, space, and relationship to others. I find myself wanting to take these kinds of selfies, rather than ones of myself. For example, looking through my Facebook and phone, I found these examples (posted with permission of the other subjects of the photos):


Each of these selfies, taken at various occasions of varying importance, indicate ownership of places, relationships, and times. Both photos on the left are fairly domestic photos of everyday life, indicating parts of my identity and relationships. The photo on the right is more of an event selfie, taken at a large outdoor music festival. These photos act to autobiographize the ownership of these spatial, temporary, and emotion relationships, taking control of the life-story told in photos and connecting it to others—the “getting a life” described by Smith and Watson. The perceived lack of seriousness that the medium portrays adds to the autobiography process. Group selfies are perceived as random, candid, and often playful.

But at some moments, these practices and desires towards ownership of a moment clash with the medium of the selfie and the occasion itself. The outrage over selfies taken at the recent tragedy at New York City’s East Village, for example, indicates a desire towards ownership of a situation that is at odds with the medium of the group selfie—random, often unskilled, goofy, fun—or perhaps even the selfie at large. While many would argue any selfie at a tragedy (or funeral, at Auschwitz), it could be interpreted as a desire for ownership over a confusing or emotional event, just through a poor choice of medium.

About betsybrey

Betsy Brey (BA and MA, University of Minnesota Duluth) is a PhD candidate specializing in game studies at the University of Waterloo department of English Language and Literature. Her research focuses on the narratological impacts of game mechanics. In particular, she researches mechanics and storytelling in metagames, virtual reality, and role-playing games. She works with the IMMERSe research network and The Games Institute, where her research has been funded with a Mitacs partnership. She is also the Editor-in-Chief for FirstPersonScholar.


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