Liberating selfies?

Begonya Enguix and Erick Gómez will present the first contribution to the project  at: #Neoliberation – The Self in the Era of New Media, a Conference at the Centre for Cultural Studies, Goldsmiths, University of London, 9-10 June 2015.

The abstract here:

Liberating selfies?

Begonya Enguix UOC/ Mediaccions@Digital Culture (IN3)

Erick Gomez UOC/ Mediaccions@Digital Culture (IN3)

This polysemic proposal aims to analyze if (or how) new media, and in particular social websites and apps, are affecting the social conceptions of self, identity, representation and emancipation. We will center our analysis on selfies, as we consider that this means of (self) expression is a perfect case to study the relationship between self, identity and representation.

Through the analysis of self-portraits or selfies and the use of #hashtags, users make particular choices based generally on shared knowledge adapted to the site where interaction takes place. These choices are context-related and identity -related.

The apps and sites we have chosen (Instagram, Bearwww and Grindr)  are social networks mainly focused on image and body images, as bearwww and grindr are gay dating sites. The comparison among them will shed light to observe and study how body images are constructed, represented, vehicled and strongly commodified in order to find a sexual partner, love, or more abstract gains such as a social web recognition as represented by more followers or likes.

The strong embodiment process that selfies illustrate is not only mediated by technology but also by social norms, gender performances, personal expectations, identity and presentation of the self. In this sense, some of the questions we aim to reflect upon are:

  • Are selfies liberating? Is self-representation (appropriation) a step forward towards emancipation?
  • Is the massive circulation of naked and semi-naked bodies in gay dating sites a liberation from the heteronormative sexual system? Or, on the contrary, is it part of the same logic of representations prescribed by the heteronormative system they seem to confront?
  • How emancipating are selfies from gender social expectations? Are the represented bodies following the hegemonic rules or is there a resistance to this hegemony? Has the hegemonic system appropriated the non-hegemonic bodies, through the use of new labels, #hashtags and “emergent” identities?

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