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The Selfie Assemblage

The Selfie Assemblage

A selfie is a form of pictorial expression that is created by the use of webcams or smartphones; the pictures are then shared to through the various platforms of social media like Facebook, whatsapp, and Twitter. Selfies have become the main trend in social media as a vernacular visual culture that is so much obsessed with itself. Despite the emergence of narcissism that relates to the selfie, it defines the complexity that occurs in the networked community (Hess, 2015).

What is the assemblage? Selfies are a photographic form that shows the relationship between the viewer and the viewed, as well as a practice of culture that sends different messages to different people, communities of audiences. In selfie assemblages, four elements are clearly articulated, that is the physical space, the self, space and the social media. A selfie can be used to show a sense of authenticity despite them being more of a staged performance, they can also be used in emplacement, that is the taking of pictures in either a private or public place can be used to advertise the uniqueness of that particular area. Selfies are also about the existence technology about the social media; this technology is viewed to provide an understanding between the bodies surrounding us and the material spaces that exist. Lastly, selfies displays the qualities of the social media in terms of its networked capabilities and the language of the web, this means that selfies are a source of inviting the digital vernacular and a user obtained content of this particular era, this is according to Van Dijck (2009).

Selfie Assemblages and the Aesthetics of Experience are articulations of;

i. Innovations in photography that are not necessarily related to production and aesthetic design of the image, like webcams, smartphones, and social media, e.g. hardware (devices), software, and platforms.

ii. The performance of a communicative action rather than the object of the photographic image e.g., a set of practices and actions

iii. An invitation to sociable interaction; an invitation to infer and adopt a physical position to the photographer

iv. An invitation to participate; upload, view, comments or takes a reactionary selfie

v. A new photographic movement that politicizes how to represent and document everyday life.

Selfies are used to represent and authenticate the owner. As such, what is the difference between a traditional painted artwork or image and a selfie. At the very basic level, selfies are made to be about a specific person who is known as “the self.” Just like in photography, selfies represent and authenticate the owner despite the fact that they can be edited by the various digital hardware and software available; they are still capable of being used as a signal for self-performance (Baym, 2010). In terms of assemblage, selfies are widely known for their stylistic language about the self which as mention earlier is meant to display a great sense of authentication. In a time where there is a continuous rise photoshopping of pictures, selfies can be regarded as a good rehearsal that allows a character to perform legitimacy. Selfies invites users to a certain physical that they once visited maybe during a vacation or meeting up with a celebrity, loss of weight at a certain time. According to Baym (2010), various questions may arise about the real authenticity and the deceptive nature of the internet, selfies will always provide the actual glimpse of how a self can be presented. This is due to the ability of selfies in providing a proof of a physical place and the self-embodiment.

As much as they are staged selfies provide the intimate sense of a person that is very accurate and honest (this is me, right now, in this place). Deluca, Lawson and Sun (2012), believed that the occupy movement was a major selfie trend that described the overall accumulation of wealth whereby the wealthiest were only 1% while the rest of the people that they referred to as “us” was 99%. There several selfie images circulating the internet with individuals holding out “I am the 99%” written materials. These images were mainly characterized by an emotional face, a personal hand written material with the person looking straight at the camera. In these scenarios, selfies depicted ethos in a sense that, the characters taking the selfies wanted to be portrayed in that specific manner. Another way of looking at selfies as a way of authenticating an individual is by looking at situations where there is a selfie fail. A selfie fail will always be made up of filtered images that are altered digitally via Instagram or other apps found in the smart phones or devices.

Selfies can be used to demonstrate the expression of a specific place. As such, what types of places are appropriate for an individual to take a selfie. Selfies are also characterized by the relationship that they try to display the place and space. Taking of a selfie can be regarded as a type of place expression; this means that the selfies are more of the place where the individual is taking the picture. De Souza (2011) argued that the existence of locative media always invites a very high level of perception about a specific space. The users are normally able to view their surrounding environment and the representation of that particular space mapped in their smart phones. Selfies outlines a certain consideration of the mind contents that are the self, space and the digital device being used, this means that selfies can be used to visualize the relationship between the user and the physical space that is surrounding him or her and then transforming it into the social networks. Taking a selfie is regarded as marking the special and temporary existence of the networks of the user. In a way, selfies can be used to articulate the relationship between discourse and the materiality, this is due to the fact that selfies speak via any networked or visual means at the specific moment where the space enhances the ability of speech and limiting the constraints if the composition of the photographer (Hess, 2011). Selfies help in extending the locative media in a more general way (Gurak and Antonijevic, 2012),karos nature will always appear unique as most of the users speak at very different opportune moments with their friends who are across distant and different physical place and in very different digital networks. The same can be seen to be applicable when it comes to selfies as the selfies taken by smart phones are very carefully crafted and the pictures taken in a spontaneous way that is carefully rehearsed. For example, a karotic selfie may be of a teenager trying to get some feedback about a new hairstyle or the world leaders meeting up during the funeral of the late Nelson Mandela (Mortensen, 2013)

In a different case, the act of engaging in taking a selfie can be driven by a special moment that deserves the capture according to the user. Selfies also need to be in decorum regarding the picture composition and the time that it is taken. An example is the very popular selfie between the president of the USA Barack Obama and the prime minister of the United Kingdom, David Cameron together with the prime minister of Denmark HelleThoming- Schmidt (Mortensen, 2013) prompt arguments all over the world on whether the idea of taking selfies at memorial services was a relevant act in that particular space. In similar circumstances, the Tumblr “Selfies at serious places” (2013) stated that it is not ideal to take selfies in places like at the 9/11 memorial services, Holocaust camps, at a friends or family funeral functions and at other in an appropriate place like Chernobyl. This means that for one to take selfies he or she should be able to acknowledge that there is a limitation when it comes to places where selfies are to be taken.

Selfie defines the rise in technology where devices like smart phones and webcams used in taking selfies show that there is a rise in modern technology? There is an existing relationship between the machine and the body that is signaled by the physical act of holding the smart phone or webcam. Wise (2012) has offered assemblages as a way of experimenting the portable devices. As the machine is connected to the body of the photographer, it shapes and transforms the environment surrounding it by distracting the attention and the focus of that particular individual. The device at times acts as a filter through the use of software to change an image as well as removing elements in the physical surrounding via the interconnection of the device, the body, and the hand. Drawing, photographs, and artworks are some of the self-posture that have existed in the media for a very long time, selfies have become unique due to there reliance on modern technology and smartphones (Slack, 2014). When an individual faces a photograph, he or she does not only take a picture but rather brings out the idea that the particular person has a complete trust in technology. Selfies are more than the pictures as they try to document an existing relationship between the digital technology and the body of the individual, the individual and the network space that the selfie will pass through. It is important for one to acknowledge that as soon as he or she presses the button to take a photo and maybe upload it, the desire to be recognized at that particular moment is initialized (Hess, 2015).

Sefies, unlike the traditional photographs, are vastly shared across the digital networks and other media connection-based services, this is according to research carried out by Hjorth and Gu (2012). With this in mind, it is important to note that selfies are considered as public artifacts or acts. Private photos cannot be considered as a selfies; this is because for a picture to be called a selfies it has to circulate. Most of the times selfies can go past the intended circulation circle; this means that it will come a time when the original photographer has no control over the places where the selfie will circulate to. During circulation, selfies sometimes can be placed in society (within the internet) that is radicalized and edited frames regarding the way the photographer wants to use the available technology to represent specific body parts. In 2014, A comedy website known as Smosh went ahead and published a “list of 15 individuals that were arrested for taking of selfies in public areas” (2014). This example can only be used to show how there is a real competition for public spaces. Therefore, selfies can be seen as a way that embodies the digital, network and physical words; it uses the available networks through the social platforms like whats app, Twitter, Tinder and Facebook in an assemblage constellation to express the user’s technology awareness and culture.


Technology keeps on changing the culture of individuals and their view of their community in general, selfies in this particular time, are seen to highlight the above issue with its constellation of various assemblages. Selfies always highlight the existing pressures in terms of competition both geographically and socially (Wiley, Becerra, and Stuko, 2012). Most of the people who appear to praise the impact of selfies to the social culture are the same people who appear to lambaste it by stating that selfies do not somehow fit the cultural and technological decorum that is found online. Researchers should try and focus on the tension and competition for spaces that is brought about with these phenomena known as the selfie (Hess, 2015). Nowadays selfies, selfies are considered as a mode of connecting desperate individuals into a simple act. According to Delanda (2006), selfies consists of multiple assemblages as they consist of various elements like the photographer herself/himself, the available physical space surrounding the photographer, the social media or network and the digital device used in taking the picture.


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