Articles

I Dream of Selfies

by Alicia Eler on February 24, 2014

You are now entering the selfiecity of Bangkok

You are now entering the selfie city of Bangkok (imaga via SelfieCity.net)

LOS ANGELES — Selfie culture is everywhere, and writers besides us here on Hyperallergic are actually beginning to take them seriously.

Nimrod Kamer of The Daily Dot decided that rather than try to take a selfie with a celebrity, he’d wander Highgate Cemetery in London and Montparnasse Cemetery in Paris, where famous dead intellectuals reside six feet under. Rather than dig up the grave of a famous person and take a photograph with the corpse — just imagine the selfies that grave robbers could have shot with Charlie Chaplin’s corpse — Kamer went ahead and took selfies in front of tombstones. Susan Sontag’s headstone gets a nice long-arm selfie. Onlookers get a tinge of la nausée through this Vine selfie that he shot with Jean Paul-Sartre grave.

Selfies now have their own virtual city on SelfieCity.net, a project dedicated to analyzing the styles of selfies in five cities through data visualizations, interactive selfie sets, and essays. Led by digital culture experts Lev Manovich and Daniel Goddemyer, SelfieCity uses a total of 3,200 selfies, all shot between December 4–12, from Bangkok, Berlin, Moscow, New York, and Sao Paulo. Some of their surprisings are completely obvious, while others may cause you to tilt your head in astonishment.

The data scientists found that approximately 4% of images per city were actual selfies. Because of the media hype around selfies, however, one would believe that selfies make up far more than that. I’m glad that scientists have once again proved uninformed popular opinion wrong. They also found that women take more selfies than men. What’s more interesting is that the gendered percentages vary by city. In Moscow, 82% of selfies were shot by women, whereas in Bangkok the number is only 55.2%. People also smile more in Bangkok and Sao Paulo, and though the scientists don’t say why that is, I suspect it’s the pleasant weather.

On Talking Points Memo, funeral home director Calob Wilde pens a beautiful post about why funeral selfies are not these horrible narcissistic things. Noting the long history of funeral photography, including the much-loved post-mortem photos from the Victorian era, he says that funeral selfies are “motivated by some kind of love,” and also notes that funeral selfies are “about both belonging and identity” in the age of social media. This is what I said in my post about funeral selfies — often times, these selfies just show a teenager or an adult trying to understand death, or at least the act of attending a funeral, possibly for the first time. Says Wilde: “In the minds of many, taking a selfie with the deceased is right because it’s expressing a connection to the deceased and wanting to share that connection with others.”

Here are five selfies from the living.

Young Joon Kwak

YJK

Young Joon Kwak’s selfie. Photo by Oscar Santos.

YJK

Collaborative selfie. Text by Lily Robert-Foley.

Occupation: Artist

Location: Los Angeles

April Lynn

April Lynn, "Snow Selfie" (2014)

April Lynn, “Snow Selfie” (2014)

Occupation: Artist

Location: Chicago

“I took this selfie on my way home from my day job dog walking business. Love winter, because this is my everyday M–F unavoidable work look. a sexually ambiguous ninja ranger future space snow cadet. constantly create. Live for creating art, selfies included.”

Jessica Buie

Jessica Buie's selfie

Jessica Buie’s selfie

Occupation: Artist

Location: San Diego, CA

“My work is motivated by the utilization of the digital platform as a means of studying the way in which we realize and manifest our idealized selves.The identities and mimetic ‘selves’ we spend so much time producing are anti-genuine, inauthentic facets of our personality that will never be tangible or breachable to those who come across our online persons. By curating what personal metadata is presented across the online platform to others, photos in particular, we purposely produce an idealized self, an altered, fragmented picture of how we want to be perceived. My work seeks to examine and engage these social implications incited by the virtual world we increasingly rely on.”

John Clare Stokes

John Clare Stokes, "Separation of Shadow Selfie" (2014)

John Clare Stokes, “Separation of Shadow Selfie” (2014)

Occupation: Photographer

Location: Lake City, Florida

“The struggle always ensues in the attempt to compose a selfie as shadow always competes with image. Shadow with latent shyness draws from the light, image gravitates toward the light. I engage the services of compliant hand to pull shadow kicking into the light.”

Marie Walz

Marie Walz' blinged out selfie!

Marie Walz’ blinged out selfie!

Occupation: Artist/Designer

Location: Chicago

“My selfie originated as a ‘help me pick out new glasses selfie,’ a series I posted to gather input from my Facebook friends on my glasses purchase. As an artist who is interested in Tumblr aesthetics, I wanted to create a ‘blinged out’ version of this selfie. I felt the aspirational messages, dollar sign, purple rose, diamond crown and especially the queer rainbow speaks volumes about this sexy fierce femme. : ) : ) : )”

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Email Hyperallergic your selfie at selfies [at] hyperallergic.com, along with a brief explanation of why you shot it and what it means to you.

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Hyperallergic welcomes comments and a lively discussion, but comments are moderated after being posted. For more details please read our comment policy.
  • http://hragv.com/ Hrag Vartanian

    Yes, but I guess it’s not clear, so we just removed it. Thanks, Kevin.

  • http://www.aliciaeler.com Alicia Eler

    Kevin, don’t you read The Onion? ;)

  • Albert

    I dream of identical selfies (source: avadenticals.org)

  • presquerien

    “some of their surprisings are completely obvious”

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