Like meme images we studied last week selfies are something we probably do not need to explain to you. They are a form of public media expression that has evolved into a thing of their own because of networked social media, and to many, a genre of digital art.

While self-portraits have been around maybe as long as someone picked up a brush-like tool, as Vulture’s comprehensive article on the History of the Selfie notes:

These are not like the self-portraits we are used to. Setting aside the formal dissimilarities between these two forms—of framing, of technique—traditional photographic self-portraiture is far less spontaneous and casual than a selfie is. This new genre isn’t dominated by artists. When made by amateurs, traditional photographic self-portraiture didn’t become a distinct thing, didn’t have a codified look or transform into social dialogue and conversation. These pictures were not usually disseminated to strangers and were never made in such numbers by so many people. It’s possible that the selfie is the most prevalent popular genre ever.

This week we explore, engage in, and ask critical questions about digital self-representation.

The Opener: The Arts and Culture App

Google launched the Arts and Culture App as a means to connect people with a vast amount of art work

The Google Arts & Culture platform hosts millions of artifacts and pieces of art, ranging from prehistory to the contemporary, shared by museums across the world. But the prospect of exploring all that art can be daunting. To make it easier, we dreamt up a fun solution: connect people to art by way of a fundamental artistic pursuit, the search for the self … or, in this case, the selfie.

The idea is you take a selfie with the app, and let their experimental algorithm use facial recognition technology to try and match it to art in the collection.

Rather fun right? Perhaps you already tried it?

But as savvy digital alchemists who looked at data tracking, hopefully you night be curious about what happens to your face when its image goes to Google? They do say

(By the way, Google doesn’t use your selfie for anything else and only keeps it for the time it takes to search for matches.)

And it does come up before you use the app:

Do we know that? Hmmmm.

But there’s more to worry about. Many have noticed that the results of the match are much less successful if you don’t have a white face, suggesting there is a racial bias in this app. And it’s more than an art app, facial recognition has much wider uses, and researchers have shown accuracy is much higher if you are whiter.

We will run our own experiments with the app, which you can get for Android devices and for Apple devices.

By no means are you required to post your own face on line o test it, you can flip the camera around to forward facing, and try using images of faces. I tried a few experiments this week:

No facial match for dogs, sorry Felix.

Here I tried using a framed photo of my Mom, who is deceased. Sorry Mom

One of my childhood photos got mapped to a girl.

You may want to think about what is being matched here. And the implications for cameras in public places to do this.

Conversation / Resources on Selfies

We will have an open conversation in class about our own use and perspective on selfies. What do you think is being said when you post one? What did you see in others?

This week we are looking for you to add at least two reviewed references on selfies to the current open Referencium document — you should be able to find some from the links below or secondary ones from them.

In preparation for our Twitter Chat (see below), Kelli posted a collection of references and questions, see Selfie-Reflecting~. Also, consider:


Twitter Chat on Selfies

In class we will engage in a live twitter conversation about selfies led by our own @helterskelliter

The Simple and Not So Simple Selfie (Feb 13, 5:15PM ET)

The Simple and Not So Simple Selfie (Feb 13, 5:15PM ET)

Our second NetNarr twitter chat is an opportunity for a networked conversation about the act, the artifact, the implications of our socially shared images as selfies. This chat is hosted and taking place during class for Kean University students and we hope others join in like our last one.

Studio Visit With Emilio Vavarella: Self Representation in digital art

Earlier in the day we met digital artist Emilio Vavarella in a NetNarr Studio visit (the archive will be posted there immediately)

Emilio Vavarella (Feb 13 @ 1pm EDT)

Emilio Vavarella (Feb 13 @ 1pm EDT)

Our second studio is a special opportunity to learn first hand about the influences and creative processes of digital artist Emilio Vavarella . Emilio will join us via Google Hangout February 13 at 1:00PM EDT in a session scheduled outside of class...

We will have a recap and a talk/walk through one of his exhibits looking especially at the ways his work explores representation in the digital space.


Mia Zamora & Hannah Kelley are opening a project we will participate in that explores the selfie as representational.

We are wondering what does “selfie culture” say about the world we’re living in now, and how can thinking about self-representation in the digtial age help us make better decisions about sharing parts of ourselves, and even understand one another better?

So… we’d love to know your thoughts on selfie culture. We are inviting all of you to participate in our public art project called #SelfieUnselfie. We will be aggregating your creative ideas on this cultural phenomenon, in order to generate further reflection on self-representation and online identity in the digital age.

Look for details on how to participate in the Make Bank.

Here is Your Week 5 Checklist

A Tee Spring shirt, which won’t be available much longer.

Week 5 Checklist

Featured Image: screenshot from the Selfiecity Selfiexploratory, a random portion of 3840 selfie images from 6 cities around the world, see

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Alan Levine feels weird writing about himself in the third person. A 1990s pioneer on the web and early proponent of blogging, he shares his ideas at His interests include web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), mocking MOOCs, daily photography, bending WordPress, and randomly dipping into the infinite river of the internet.


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