The (be)Coming Of Selfies

Revisiting an Onlife Ethnography on Digital Photography Practices 1

Authored by: Edgar Gómez Cruz

The Routledge Companion to Digital Ethnography

Print publication date:  December  2016
Online publication date:  January  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138940918
eBook ISBN: 9781315673974
Adobe ISBN: 9781317377788


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This chapter focuses upon a central digital and visual phenomenon of contemporary culture: selfies. The main premise for my argument is that the conditions that configured the development of imagery as a core element in online interactions were shaped in early text-based practices and therefore represent a distinct trajectory from the tradition of self-portraiture in painting and photography. Building upon a previous account on the topic (Gómez Cruz and Thornham 2015), I suggest that selfies represent the latest stage of an evolution and convergence between technologically mediated practices of communication and visual cultures. This convergence has been refined through mass adoption, technical innovation, corporate and media discourses and the rise of algorithmic culture (Striphas 2015). Digital photography practices, and specifically selfies, represent an interesting case study to characterize some of the virtues and possibilities of digital ethnography. At the same time, the digital, as an object of inquiry “makes us aware and newly self-conscious about those taken-for-granted frames” (Miller and Horst 2012, 12) and photography (traditional, familiar, vernacular) was one of them (see Gómez Cruz 2016; Hand 2012).

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