Call For Papers: Studying Selfies: Evidence, Affect, Ethics, and the Internet’s Visual Turn

Studying Selfies: Evidence, Affect, Ethics, and the Internet’s Visual Turn
A special section of the International Journal of Communication (IJoC)

Guest-edited by:

Dr. Theresa Senft
Master Teacher in Global Liberal Studies
New York University
Terri.senft@nyu.edu

Dr. Nancy Baym
Principal Researcher
Microsoft Research
baym@microsoft.com

 

Overview

The fact that “selfie” was Oxford English Dictionary’s word of the year for 2013 indicates that the selfie is a topic of popular interest. Yet for scholars, the selfie phenomenon represents a paradox. As an object, the selfie lends itself to cultural scorn and shaming. As a cultural practice, however, selfie circulation grows by the moment, moving far beyond the clichéd province of bored teenagers online. The rapid spread of camera-enabled mobile phones worldwide means that selfies have become a global phenomenon. Yet dominant discourses about what selfies are, and what they mean, tend to be extremely U.S. focused.

In this special section, we aim to provide international perspectives on selfies.  As an act of production, we are interested in why selfie-making lends itself to discussions featuring words like “narcissistic” or “empowering.” As a media genre, we are interested in the relationship of the selfie to documentary, autobiography, advertising, and celebrity. As a cultural signifier, we ask:  What social work does a selfie do in communities where it was intended to circulate, and what happens when it circulates beyond those communities?

As an emblematic part of the social media’s increased “visual turn,” selfies provide opportunities for scholars to develop best practices for interpreting images online in rigorous ways. Case studies of selfie production, consumption and circulation can also provide much needed insight into the social dynamics at play on popular social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Reddit, WeChat and Tumblr.

We are seeking scholarly articles from diverse fields, and a wide range of theoretical and methodological approaches, including: media studies, communication, anthropology, digital humanities, computational and social sciences, cultural geography, history, and critical cultural studies.

 

Possible topics include, but are not limited to:

Selfie as discourse: What is the history (or histories) of the selfie? How do these histories map to contemporary media and scholarly discourses regarding self-representation, autobiography, photography, amateurism, branding, and/or celebrity?

Selfie as evidence: What are the epistemological ramifications of the selfie? How do selfies function as evidence that one attended an event, feels intimate with a partner, was battered in a parking lot, is willing to be “authentic” with fans, or claims particular standing in a social or political community? One uploaded, how do selfies become evidence of a different sort, subject to possibilities like “revenge porn,” data mining, or state surveillance?

Selfie as affect: What feelings do selfies elicit for those who produce, view, and/or circulate them? What are we to make of controversial genres like infant selfies, soldier selfies, selfies with homeless people, or selfies at funerals? How do these discourses about controversial selfies map to larger conversations about “audience numbness” and “empathy deficit” in media?

Selfie as ethics: Who practices “empowering” selfie generation? Who does not? Who cannot? How do these questions map to larger issues of class, race, gender, sexuality, religion and geography? What responsibilities do those who circulate selfies of others have toward the original creator of the photo? What is the relationship between selfies and other forms of documentary photography, with regard to ethics?

Selfie as pedagogy: How can selfies be used as case studies to better understand the visual turn in social media use? How do selfies “speak,” and what methods might we develop to better understand what is being said?

 

Formatting and Requirements

To be considered for this collection, a paper of maximum 5,000 words (including images with captions, footnotes, references and appendices, if any) must be submitted by June 15, 2014. All submissions should be accompanied by two to three suggested reviewers including their e-mail addresses, titles, affiliations and research interests. Submissions will fall under the category of “Features” which are typically shorter than full research articles.

All submissions must adhere strictly to the most recent version of the APA styleguide (including in-text citations and references).  Papers must include the author(s) name, title, affiliation and e-mail address. Any papers that do not follow these guidelines will not be submitted for peer review.

 The International Journal of Communication is an open access journal (ijoc.org). All articles will be available online at the point of publication. The anticipated publication timeframe for this special section is March 2015.

 

Contact Information

All submissions should be emailed to ijocselfieissue@outlook.com by June 15, 2014. Late submissions will not be included for consideration. 

404 Day: A Day of Action Against Censorship in Libraries and Public Schools

(Cross-posted from Radical Reference and jessalingel.tumblr.com)

Tomorrow is 404 Day, an effort from the Electronic Frontier Foundation to raise awareness of online censorship in libraries and public schools.  They’re running an online info session today at noon, PST, and they’ve reached out to librarians and information professionals to share experiences with online censorship.

My encounters with 404 pages in libraries have mostly stemmed from my academic rather than librarian life.  While in graduate school, I undertook a project looking at practices of secrecy in the extreme body modification community.  I wanted to know how the community circulated information about illegal and quasi-legal procedures among insiders, without exposing the same information to outsiders and the authorities.  As a researcher, getting a 404 message (which happened mostly when trying to access a social network platform geared specifically to the body modification community) was mostly exasperating, but it also gave me pause for other contexts of looking up this type of information.  As a teenager, body modification fascinated me, and I spent many hours online researching procedures related to piercings, tattoos, scarification and suspension.  Eventually, I came to feel very much a part of the body modification community, and the internet was vital to that happening.  When I imagine what would have happened if I’d been confronted with 404 pages early on in those searches, it’s possible that my body would look very different, and so would my early twenties – in both cases, I believe, for the worse.  My experiences were by no means singular; while conducting research on EBM, I encountered many folks who were still struggling to locate information about procedures they wanted done, to get answers to questions about health and well being, to find a community that wouldn’t find their interests weird or freakish.  EBM is just one example of a stigmatized topic that provokes censorship at the cost of denying people information that can be deeply tied to their physical, mental and social well-being.

I’m grateful to EFF for drawing attention to 404s and monitoring policies, and am happy to join the array of information activists speaking out against censorship in public libraries and schools.