The Universal Notion of the “Selfie” – Traditional & Cultural Poses, Professional and Amateur Shots

Let’s face it, the selfie is a part of our everyday lives, whether you get out of bed in the morning to quickly take a good morning shot, or you are bombarded with them as soon as you turn on your phone in the morning, selfie’s are a part of our lives. With the explosion of new technologies and new media, the selfie has become a universal term where one is able to broadcast themselves to a wide, and selfie-crazed audience and this is being seen not only at arm’s length in our day to day lives, but is actually all over the world, including Japan.

In a previous post, I compared the two photos of Australian model, Miranda Kerr, and the Japanese model, Kozue Akimoto who although were millions of kilometres away from each other, they both took selfies on a regular basis and posted them onto their personal Instagram site. 6 weeks ago when I wrote this post, Kerr and Akimoto had not ever met, and were very two distinctive figures in Australian and Japanese culture however when I was quickly checking out Akimoto’s page yesterday, what did I come across? You would never ever would think but I found a selfie on MIRANDA KERR and KAZUE AKIMOTO! Crazy, crazy crazy especially because I JUST researched the selfie and compared them seperately! (See the photo below)

akimoto and miranda

What I learnt from this experience?

When thinking about this I really wanted to delve in further about what the selfie actually was, how the selfie actually worked and how it has become a universal phenomenon.

According to the Oxford dictionary, the selfie is typically “a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website.”

In this day and age, it is so common to publicise ourselves to digital audiences through social media sites such as Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Youtube etc that it has become a norm enabling us to communicate ourselves in a completely new way. Through the development of new media and technologies, the fact that audiences are no longer just consuming what they see in the media, and are constantly evolving becoming pro-sumers and citizen journalists are a clear way how audiences are striving to be a part of social communities and are using selfies to be a part of it.

When thinking about this, I thought about the way that cultures cross over because of the way that there are so many sub-cultures that interact with each other around the world, and the biggest one of these is the digital culture.

In the article, Art at Arm’s Length: A History of the Selfie, Jerry Saltz writes that “We live in the age of the selfie” In this article, the selfie is discussed as becoming ‘become their own visual genre- a type of self portraiture formally distinct from all others in history. Selfies have their own structural autonomy’ and as Saltz describes, selfies are ‘a very big deal for art’.

What are my reactions towards my findings?

Initially when I started thinking about the selfie as being an art form, and being a universal phenomenon, I have to admit I thought it was all just a bit silly however after reading Saltz article and by seeing how the digital culture and even selfies can bring all different countries and cultures together I found it to be extremely relevant.

It is quite interesting to think about the way in which the common ‘selfie’ could be depicted as an art form, and before reading Saltz article, honestly I probably would have never looked at the way that selfies could be a part of artistic culture, and a form of self-expression. However when you think about we have always been taking some kind of selfie, or creating some kind of self representation of ourselves, just think about ancient times even, the drawing on the walls, beautiful self portraits by famous artworks, and more. I think no matter the way you look at selfies, essentially the selfie is a form of self-expression and self-portrait and the reason why it has become such a massive deal all over the world is because it is just a NEW form of representing ourselves, and I think that this is a massive reason why selfies have become such a universal phenomenon not just in the Western countries but also in Japan and countries all over the world.

Ellis, C., Adams, T.E., and Bochner, A.P. (2011) ‘Autoethnography: An Overview’, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 12:1. http://www.qualitativeresearch.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/1589/3095

Saltz, J, “Art at Arm’s Length: A History of the Selfie,” Vulture, accessed 2/10/2014 http://www.vulture.com/2014/01/history-of-the-selfie.html?mid=twitter_nymag&+utm_content=buffer18f61&utm_+medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

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3 comments

  1. I think it’s good that you didn’t immediately discount the artistic merit of the selfie. It’s like any new media form, it’ll need time to develop both publicly and artistically. It’s also interesting to think that the world is taking selfies, that it’s not a eastern culture thing or a western culture thing, but a global phenomenon. Maybe that’s because it’s a product of the times? Maybe it’s because of what the selfie is at it’s core? I don’t know but that could be something worth exploring.

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  2. Selfies are definitely a worldwide phenomenon, and it’s apparent even more now after reading your post. While it is evident that every society has a different definition of ‘beauty’, it’s very interesting to hear about how selfies are perceived in each country.
    I still think though, selfies are somewhat a kind of ‘meme’, in that it’s something that became popular and is able to be re-created many times, as well as the sudden popularity of them.
    Well done on a great post 🙂

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  3. I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but years ago before Facebook and Instagram and the term ‘selfie’ even existed, Asian culture embraced the term ‘luvo’ which was essentially the original internet term for the word ‘selfie’. The high school that I went to was 90% Asian and all the guys and girls I used to go to school with used to post ‘luvos’ on bebo (yes good old bebo) and refer to these selfies as ‘luvos’ all the time. I wonder why that word never caught on with the rest of the world and I wonder if it’s still a popular term amongst Asian youth.
    Great post, I really enjoyed it.

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