Selfie Assemblages and Self Representation

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One of the latest advancements in media and communication development is the selfie. Selfies have gained much attention in the communication sector today. The selfie is considered by many people as a narcissist tool (Barclay and Croft, 2014). Correspondingly, others associate the increase in the number of people taking selfies on a daily basis with psychiatric disorders. Although they are viewed differently by different people, selfies serve as an important means of communication in the social media.

With advances in the information and communication technology in the recent years, the selfie has helped in changing several things including the means of self -expression. The selfie provides a new way of self -expression as well as connecting with others on the social media. This paper explores selfie assemblages as a form of self- representation and cultural artifact.

The term selfie was declared the word of the year by the Oxford Dictionary in 2013. The selfie is defined as the photographic object that initiates the transformation of human feeling in the form of a relationship for instance, between the viewer and the person being viewed. As a practice, a selfie refers to a gesture through which messages can be sent to different communities, individuals and audiences. The gesture can be dampened, modified by social media censorship and amplified. Additionally, other gestures such as likes and comments can be added to this kind of gesture.

Selfies involve taking the photographs of .oneself and showing them to other people. However, they are created, displayed, distributed and tracked through a range on non-human assemblages. Once displayed in the social media, the selfies are circulated beyond space and time in the digital super public. As a result, the selfies function as a practice of everyday life as a way of determining how people should represent, document as well as share their behaviors.

The creation of selfies involves several interrelating elements. The elements that comprise a selfie are; the self, physical space, the device and the network. In everyday life, the practice of taking selfies involve people moving from place to place with their mobile devices, ready to take photographs of themselves and display them to other people through the social media. Hence, the selfie is not just a photograph but a social practice enclosed in a visual language (Hess, 2015).

Understanding the self is the first step to understanding what a selfie is. First, there is the need to understand the truthfulness of a selfie. The authenticity of the selfie is not impulsive but rather rehearsed. The ease with which people can take and delete photos makes it easy for people to use the selfies over and again. Selfies form a very personal way of communicating with people on the social network. This is because it enhances the possibility of delivering messages with personal touch.

Another element that comprise a selfie is the time and space. Selfies are considered as emplace. This is because the taking of a selfie expresses the placement of a person in a certain location at a particular time. According to De Souza e Silva and Sutko 2011 selfies are considered as locative media since they provide a double perception about space.

This is because the users are capable of seeing the physical space around them while having the representation of the same location mapped on their mobile devices. In the case of a selfie for instance, the double perception provides the representational quality of the user within he space using a smart phone. Selfies, therefore, give the visualization of the users as emplaced within their physical surrounding and embedded in the social networks.

The element of space conveys information about a selfie. Selfies are either taken in the public or private places. Sloop and Gunn, 2010, argue that when selfies are taken in the setting of intimacy, the message communicated is publicized privacy. However, when taken in public, the selfies characterize special moments that need to be shared especially with the people not physically present. The places where most selfies are taken include: travel destinations, famous landmarks and vocational spots. The twitter hashtag is often used to show the character of place within selfies.

The other element of a selfie is the device. The intersection between the body and the machine is facilitated by physically holding the device. Wise 2012, describes an assemblage as a way of examining the portable devices that looks into positioning the body with the device.

Extending the arm with a smartphone in the hand to take a selfie shows the positioning nature of the technology to the space around the users. The device is considered a filter because it uses its software to alter images and its ability to frame and remove the elements of the physical surrounding by utilizing the relationship between the hand, device, backdrop and the body.

The other important assemblage of the selfie is the network. Selfies are commonly taken by people to be shared on the digital platforms and location based services. Although the composition of a selfie depends largely on the physical space, the presentation depends largely on the network as well as the decorum. There is an increase in the use of public telephony today with millions of people experiencing it on their mobile phones.

However, the selfies help individuals in understanding the inflection between space and network. The selfie is, therefore, a statement of co-presence and integrates the physical, digital and networked words. It expresses the membership of individuals to the physical, public spaces as well as public networked places connected through Instagram, Facebook, and twitter among other social media sites (Carpentier and De, 2008).

The concept of the selfie dates back to several years ago when the early people would put their portraits on paper (Bedford, Kelly and Davis, 2007). From the oxford definition of a selfie, the two important components are the front-facing camera and the circulation of images through the social networks. The front camera of a smart phone allows individuals to see their reflection and record it. This makes selfies very different from the earlier forms of self -imaging.

The development of the front facing cameras begun in the early 2000s and several mobile phones were released in late 2003 which had front cameras (Hall, 2014). However, the main purpose of the front cameras during that time was performing video calls. The quality of the front facing cameras was lower compared to the rear camera.

During this period, the front cameras were not commonly used except by those who could afford and needed to conduct video calls. The release of the iPhone 4 by Apple in 2010 saw the rebirth of the selfie as well as the introduction of social media photo applications such as the Hipstamatic and Instagram.

This was an added advantage since the tools played a major role in enabling the users to have complete control over the selfie. Among the activities that the applications helped the users in performing were; the framing of the selfie, editing, increasing or reducing the brightness of the image and distribution throughout the social media sites.

The development of the selfie did not end at the ability to perform different tasks using the applications introduced. Several applications were launched that focused entirely on the front facing camera such as the Dub smash. Other application that facilitated the enhancement of the front facing camera were Snapchat, which allows the users to recreate the favorite lines in their movies, and video messaging applications that allow users to record videos and take photos and share with friends (Metcalf, 2016).

Although there was an increase in the use of selfies, it took a while for the manufacturers of smart phones to improve the front facing cameras of the devices they made. The emergence of other devices such as the iPhone 6s, Samsung Galaxy S6 edge and the HTC Desire Eye, known as the selfie camera, saw much improvement in the front facing cameras thus improving the capacity of the selfies.

The Oxford Dictionary defined the term selfie in 2013, and its usage grew to stability in 2014 and 2015. The acknowledgment by manufacturers has led to increased improvements in the front facing camera of the devices manufactured today. Although the technological advancements play a major role in enabling users to create and share selfies throughout the social networks, the concept of self -representation is not a new idea.

One of the most important reasons why people take and share selfies is for self-representation. Self-representation defines the activities of the participating audience in the digital culture. Self- representation differs from self -performance since they are produced. Self -representations, therefore involve producing images and circulating in the digital platforms. This ensures that individuals can produce images in their locations and share them with their friends across the social networks (Thumim, 2012).

The notion of self-representation date back to the ancient times in the western culture when individuals kept diaries, made paintings stories about themselves. This shows that the representation of the self has a rich history, especially in psychology. The emergence of virtual environments such as the idea of the Second Life facilitated research into self-representation. The studies mainly focused on the transformation of individuals from the reality to the virtual world, that is, how people transformed self -representation online (Lundby, 2009).

In an attempt to describe the concept of self -representation, one of the scholars of digital communication Thumim (2015) investigates how people practice self -representation in the modern-day culture. According to the scholar, the self- representations occur in different forms. Self- representation is considered as therapeutic because it focuses on the personal and private development of an individual by enabling them to share stories, thus giving them an outlet to be heard. To further explain the therapeutic nature of self –representation, the author further gives the example of a fitness selfie where more focus cannot be on an individual when someone is taking his or her own photo.

Uploading a picture on social media gives an individual the ability to participate in larger groups. When an individual uploads a picture with a certain hashtag, the photo is added to the particular community. The meditation of self- representation is considered both as a political ad a cultural matter (Mansell, 2015).

Putting into consideration the wide range of associations in which individuals are involved. the political nature of self -representations involves making choices. Thumim gives the example of making a documentary where choices have to be made from the initial stage of representing the idea to the final stages of selecting the music.

According to the scholar, when someone takes a selfie, the notion of self- representation is demonstrated through conventions, personal ideas, technological affordances and limitations and institutional requirements and expectations. These processes play an important role in shaping the self-representation. Self-representation have a liberating ideal with the ability to deliver authentic accounts of individuals. However, they are entrenched in the cultural perceptions and social norms.

Some of the media specialists argue that the certain selfies, such as the fitness selfies convey special advantages to the health of the user. While taking a selfie, the individual has complete control over the photograph. However, the selfies form an important part of the human relations and holds socio-cultural perceptions such as beauty and fitness.

Additionally, the meditation of the self is commonly at work especially when uploading the fitness selfies to the social media sites. To understand the concept of self- representation, it is important to focus on the three dimensions of the self-representation, that is, the cultural, institutional and textual processes.

Apart from being used as a way of self-representation, selfies also play an important role in shaping the culture of the people (Keen, 2015). With the resurgence of the selfies in 2010, the culture of the population has changed with many of the people increasingly using smart phones to enhance communication on the digital platforms. There is an increasingly way of communicating the self in the social spaces. Additionally, the selfies have helped individuals and enterprises in communicating their products in the increasingly competitive market. This is because they express individuals as young and fit, thus helping in improving sales.


With regards to the above discussion, it is evident that the selfie, as well as its assemblages, have changed the way people communicate about themselves today. With an increase in the number of smart phones in the market today, the selfie has become an important way of self -expression. However, the negative things associated with this technology such as psychological problems should be addressed to ensure reduced harm to the users.


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