2015 Workshop 5: Selfies: Inter-faces and ‘me’-diated bodies

2e9b0cb2Abstract: The main objective of the session is to connect various global scholars to discuss the relationship between the self and selfhood, digital imaging practices and experiences, and the sharing of the self/selves visually through social media. Our aim is to invite a widening of the ontological aperture of methods and theories applied to the study of the body via social media–particularly the bodies of marginalized identities and marginalized groups.

  1. Inter-faces: authenticity, agency, and digital subjectivites will address the individual and intimate relationship between one’s body, image, and sharing.
  1. #Me-diated bodies: representation, intimacy, embodied cyborgs, and digital discourse theory will address the social forces that act upon and shape the relationship between body, imaging, and social media.

A young woman uploads a selfie to facebook. The photo of a celebrity becomes a viral meme. Two lovers Snapchat NSFW images to each other at the office. The regularity with which people represent themselves or are represented through digital visual imaging has beckoned researchers from divergent academic fields: art history to internet studies, visual culture to cognitive psychology. Amidst this academic intrigue, digital representations of the body have predominantly been addressed iconographically (in what categories and taxonomies of ways do we represent ourselves visually?) and ethically (what is an appropriate or correct representations of the self, versus and inappropriate or incorrect representation of the self?)

But what has not been explored (perhaps enough) are the ontological assumptions within the process of coding and categorizing bodies, as well as making ethical proclamation about them. Because digital images look so very much like photographs, they have been treated as texts and with such a treatment, images of the living experiential body become frozen and flattened through discourse. Selfies become nothing more than vanity rituals. Nude photos on snapchat are chastised as childish and inappropriate. Sending an image of a body is postage rather than the digital transmission of flesh and subjectivity.

But what if the discourse surrounding the ontology of digital bodies—both in academia and mass media—and therefore the theoretical models for studying, analysing and understanding social media are incomplete? What if digital images of the body are something different than simply a text, a photo, a communicative practice, or an object to be quantified? What if, as Donna Haraway ironically predicted in the Cyborg manifesto, there is no delineation between body and medium, flesh and technology? This rethinking would necessarily beg an integration of quantitative and qualitative methods and a rethinking of online identity and subjectivities.

Pre-Workshop Prep: TBA


Katie Warfield, Kwantlen Polytechnic University
Crystal Abidin, University of Western Australia
Fiona Andreallo, University of Technology Sydney
Jocelyn Murtell, Leeds Metropolitan University
Carolina Cambre, UWO King’s College
Cristina Miguel, University of Leeds
Stefanie Duguay, Queensland University of Technology