Introducing Selfiecity

The Selfie: Making sense of the “Masturbation of Self-Image” and the “Virtual Mini-Me.” Selfiecity, 2014.

The essay that started it all, i.e. my long-term involvement with the scholarly debates about the selfie.

This is the first article I've ever written about the topic of the selfie. It was intended as a brief essay to provide a historical and theoretical insight into the connections between the selfie and photographic self-portraiture per se. The essay is an integral part of an interactive research project Selfiecity to which I've contributed throughout its development since the fall of 2013.

This essay reviews some of the recent debates on the selfie (at the time of writing - late 2013 and early 2014) and places it into a broader context of photographic self-portraiture, investigating how the Instagrammed selfie differs from its precursors, as well as mapping out avenues for further research and interpretation of the results obtained in Selfiecity.

The authors of Selfiecity are: Dr. Lev Manovich, Moritz Stefaner, Mehrdad Yazdani, Dr. Dominikus Baur, Daniel Goddemeyer, Alise Tifentale, Nadav Hochman, and Jay Chow.

The development of Selfiecity was supported by The Graduate Center, City University of New York, California Institute for Telecommunication and Information, and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Download my essay pdf, or view it on the Theory section on Selfiecity website.

View and explore Selfiecity website

For further research

Since 2013-2014 when I wrote this initial and tentative essay, I’ve written more about the topic. My later articles, no doubt, have greatly benefitted from the critical discussions initiated by Selfiecity as well as the development (or thriving even) of a whole new field of “selfie studies.”

If you’re looking for more developed scholarly arguments and a solid guide to the field, I’d suggest you look at any of my later articles and book chapters about the selfie (links lead to a page with a downloadable pdf):

(1) “The Selfie: More and Less than a Self-Portrait,” in Moritz Neumüller, ed., Routledge Companion to Photography and Visual Culture (London, New York: Routledge, 2018), 44–58.

(2) "Competitive Photography and the Presentation of the Self" (co-author Lev Manovich) in Jens Ruchatz, Sabine Wirth, and Julia Eckel, eds., Exploring the Selfie: Historical, Analytical, and Theoretical Approaches to Digital Self-Photography (Palgrave Macmillan, 2018), 167-187.

(3) "The Networked Camera at Work: Why Every Self-Portrait Is Not a Selfie, but Every Selfie is a Photograph," in Santa Mičule, ed., Riga Photography Biennial 2016 (Riga: Riga Photography Biennial, 2016), 74-83;

(4) “Art of the Masses: From Kodak Brownie to Instagram,” Networking Knowledge 8, No. 6 (2015): 1-16;

(5) “Making Sense of the Selfie: Digital Image-Making and Image-Sharing in Social Media,” Scriptus Manet 1, No. 1 (2015): 47–59;

(6) Selfiecity: Exploring Photography and Self-Fashioning in Social Media” (co-author Lev Manovich), in David M. Berry and Michael Dieter, eds., Postdigital Aesthetics: Art, Computation and Design (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015), 109-122.

Besides, I’ve developed some ideas stemming from my work with Selfiecity in these public talks (links lead to summaries of each talk with presentation images):

(1) "The Networked Camera: Mapping the Universe of Instagram Photography,” invited talk at the panel Social Media in Theory & Praxis: What Is at Stake Now? at the Graduate Center, City University of New York. New York City, April 18, 2018.

(2) "The Selfie: More and Less than a Self-Portrait," invited talk at the symposium What Now? 2016: On Future Identities, organized by Art in General in collaboration with the Vera List Center for Art and Politics (May 20-21, 2016). New York City, May 21, 2016.

(3) "Taking the Selfie Seriously: A Study of the Most Misunderstood Genre of Photography," invited talk at the Riga Photography Biennial symposium Image and Photography in the Post-Digital Era (April 22-23, 2016), Riga, Latvia, April 22, 2016.

Happy reading and good luck in further research!