In this example, the person who watermarked and reposted someone else’s selfie did not post selfies of their own on Tum- blr. The person admitted to that in one of the responses to crit- icism. Looking at this and similar conflicts from the past years, I would argue that this is an important distinction and a big reason for why the reposting blogger didn’t understand that selfies can mean a lot for people who regularly share them. For those people on Tumblr, who take and share sexy selfies, these images are much more than a mere photograph. For them, selfies are expressions of their bodies and selves, ways of being or becoming. We will return to this in more detail shortly. CONTEXTS How do social, cultural, technical, geographical, political and other relevant contexts shape and constrain how we take and share selfies? Starting from the technical context, we need to think about the role of platform and app affordances. Downloaded by New York University At 10:48 07 September 2018 (PT)
55 How Do We Selfie? Affordances, as mentioned in the Introduction, refer to the perceived use potential of a given technology. They depend on the intentions of the particular person using it. How do the affordances of Snapchat, Instagram or Tumblr shape how we take, share and interact around selfies? On most popular social media apps and platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or Tumblr, people’s images flow in remixed streams of social information. Mine mingles with yours. Visual, textual and hypertextual (i.e., links and hashtags) merge in a ‘post’, and multiple posts make a ‘feed’, a ‘dashboard’ or a ‘wall’ experience. We encounter our own and other people’s selfies in a noisy, colourful, rich flow of stuff, much of which is visual. This is an important contextu- al characteristic. While caricaturists and satirists like to poke fun at people who post online, by equating this with the act of yelling ‘I had pasta for lunch!’ out of a window, or nailing photographic auto-portraits of themselves to the wall of the city hall, the analogies are not apt. Yes, both places can be considered (partially) public, but a restaurant check-in on a Facebook feed and a selfie on an Instagram account join an endless, quickly refreshing throng of other similar content. There is a speed and a rhythm in it, which influences how we make sense of what is public and what is not. If our utter- ances are wiped off the edge of the screen with a blink of an eye, posting selfies and status updates feels much less weird than yelling ‘I had pasta!’ from your window would. Beyond the flow-like experience that is common across many platforms, each specific app or platform has its own affordances for (visual) self-expression and communication. Let’s look at some of Instagram’s and Snapchat’s. Anyone who uses Instagram knows it is intended as a smartphone app. While viewing via a web browser from a computer is easy, posting from a computer requires a specific additional app. It has built-in filters and photo editing tools.
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