it both appalling and fascinating that something as simple and harmless as taking an image of yourself in public, or even being found out as someone who has selfies on their camera roll, can create such strong feelings and reactions. We will return to the topic of judgment in Chapter 3, but for now it is important to highlight that the decisions and actions regard- ing selfie taking are multiple and entangled in prior personal and witnessed selfie experiences, material and technological aspects of taking and editing images, places, bodily sensa- tions, cultural stories, etc. THINGS AND THEIR USE A practice approach focuses on objects surrounding the per- son as well as the person’s doings, saying and feelings. Most obviously, a selfie has many qualities and functions as “a self- representational, networked photographic” object, which we talked about in Chapter 1. Other things relevant to how we do selfies include the devices we use for taking and uploading them the software we use for editing them and whatever solu- tions we use for storing them. How are our selfie practices Downloaded by New York University At 10:48 07 September 2018 (PT)
52 Selfies influenced by whether we take a selfie with a camera phone, a laptop’s web cam or a photo camera? Using a timer or a selfie stick? Editing on an iPhone versus an Android phone, in a beautifying app or an app with novelty filters? Similarly, our clothes, accessories, cups of coffee, beach chairs, brunch plates and mirrors can all be important things, when it comes to taking selfies. For example, another research participant – Anna from the USA – deliberately takes her sexy selfies with a ‘shitty camera phone’. She likes what this camera seems to do to her images. She feels it keeps them less popular, which in turns makes her feel that they are less likely to travel across community boundaries on Tumblr, or worse yet, cross over into other platforms. ‘You’re moving into a different zone of seriousness about selfies, when you use a real camera’, she said, ‘I feel like the photos are less permanent if they have lower quality.’ One’s preferences about the features of selfies as photo- graphs clearly depend on the goals and functions that a par- ticular selfie serves for a particular person. Most commonly, we look for ‘good’ quality in our images: sharpness, bright colours, depth and structure, but Anna is posting her sexy selfies for personal satisfaction, entertainment and enjoy- ment, not for making money; moreover, she wants to avoid her colleagues or employers finding out she does this. For her, the low technical quality of the devices and images plays a strategic role in controlling who sees them and what for. For others, the reverse goal is at work: A high quality image is strategically important if one wants to get paid or make a living by using selfies and Instagramming. Some entrepreneurial individuals, usually called ‘influencers’* or * If you are interested in internet celebrity and Influencers, pick up Crystal Abidin’s Internet Celebrity: Understanding Fame Online from the same series as this book.
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