Departuring from previous findings, this time I dug in to the psychology, social psychology, sociology and media theory, for the term selfie. I was hoping to find patterns and meaningful explanations to my roughly peaked questions; why people take selfies? how social sciences define the concept of self and being? Are there any other fields,theories and/or examples which can be add to first part of the previous post? And what is the current statistical data on the concept of selfie?

First, I wanted to approach the topic from the root of the word and from the perspective of psychology. I thought that I need basic understanding about the concept and the jargon. I hope this will help me to understand further readings on psychology. According to psychologists, self concept refers to how someone thinks about, perceives or even evaluates themselves. Self aware means having a self concept. They divide self into two; existential self and categorical self. Existential self is about sense of being separate and distinct from others. Once we establish existential self, we eventually categorical self is about how we categorise society, i.e. categorising according to age, gender, skill, size, in further later ages it expands to traits, carreer, etc. Carl Rogers investigates self-concept by dividing it into three which are interdependent; self- image is what we believe we are, self- esteem is how much value we put on ourselves, ideal self is that we wish to be. We can expand the idea of self-concept through understanding social identity theory. Social identity theory deals with how we categorise ourselves, whether it is personal or social categorisation. Social identity construct with a mental process which has three parts. We categorise ourselves, then identify and behave according to category. Then, we compare with different groups and people. Let me explain with an example. Lets say we categorised ourselves as student, than we start to behave and act like a student. Then, we compare ourselves with other students, consciously or sub-consciously. Purpose of this process is maintaining self- esteem. Albert Bandura, expands whole concept of self-esteem and came up with self efficacy concept. Self-efficacy is the belief in one’s capability to succeed on a particular situation. People who have strong self-efficacy can easily recover from fails, can be motivated to take challenges, and enjoy them, whilst people with weak self-efficacy are more likely to be fail, and avoid challenges. According to him, sources of self-efficacy may be raised by mastering the task, or seeing other people from similar categories completing tasks successfully,or getting encouragements, or learning how to control psychological responses. The relation between self-esteem and self efficacy is not constant. For example, a person can see himself unlikeable, and at the same time as an successful architect. When we think of selfie both in terms of action and reaction, they seem to be easiest way of gaining self-efficacy which eventually make you open to challenges and enjoy them.

According to sociologists, the self is product of social interactions with other people. Charles Cooley (1964) explains the concept of self with his looking glass theory that we can not develop a sense of self without interpreting the messages that we receive from others about our appearance and behaviour. George Mead defines three stages in order to investigate the self: 1. Prepatory stage, 2. Play stage, 3. Game Stage. Prepatory stage occurs earlier ages of human beings. A baby imitates objects and people around them. Talking can be an example to that. Couple years later, toddler enters to the play stage. This is the stage where children developing skills in communicating through symbols and role taking. Later on, game stage all other processes of the self which involves complex actual tasks and simultaneous relations.

(Last night, I came across with a post on eksisozluk. I read whole post through my findings. It was interesting for me to see most of the theories above in an actual case.   https://eksisozluk.com/entry/46715793?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=tweet&utm_campaign=social&utm_content=sosyal+medyanin+insani+depresyona+suruklemesi&utm_term=0)


It seems both psychology and sociology has close path on defining the self. They both related to social interaction. So, I wanted to look deeper on the today’s social interaction, hoping to find the effects on our understanding of self. Documentary by Douglas Rushkoff, “Digital Nation” investigates the contemporary social interaction through the digital media environments. The documentary underlines “ a new way of social interactivity”, which urges you to connect with people. It covers the story of digital revolution from beginning to end, and argues that technology separated us, but it reverse now. Final sequence of the documentary states an interesting observation by Rushkoff, which I stated on the first post of this blog. He says:” Technology made us alone, but a little more bearable.”

The concept of being alone in the internet is heavily criticised by Sherry Turkle, who is a professor at Initiative on Technology and Self at MIT. Unfortunately, we don’t have her book “Alone Together” in our library. So, I’m putting a video which designed according to quotes from the book, which I believe perfectly covers the basic concepts of the book. ( There is also a ted talk of her, which she mentions similar issues.)

“ Capacity of solitude defines ourselves”


Then I took couple days off, in order to think about above mentioned concepts and thoughts. I thought most traditional ways of social interaction. In a conversation, there is a spontaneous  feedback loop that goes on and on between the speakers. As I, briefly, mentioned above self is constructed mainly on the purpose of maintaining self esteem. And, you can read the responses of others from their mimics, gestures, or verbal activities. There is a constant self-regulation in a conversation whether it is conscious or subconscious.

So, what is the new tools of social interaction in contemporary digital media environments? Plainly, as Douglas Rushkoff stated in the documentary, “Generation like”; new social currency of the generation is likes, follows, comments that you give and take. “ A new way to be intimate” is defined by these interactions. Or we can the value of the subject. 

This situation created huge shift in terms of marketing. For example, before digital revoluiton, pop culture had to dig into the youth culture and sell it back to them. But now, the audience is the source, that creates material or the value. “Your consumer is your marketer.” Or as a much more obvious example, the value of Facebook defined by how much “likes” generated by users. By giving various examples from different industries, such as a food, movie, and music, 
the documentary emphasises an important situation in terms of digital marketing: “ They wanna make the interaction seem to open and transparent.” I believe this statement kinda proves my first findings on Western mode of representation which aims to be interactive and transparent.


Thinking selfies:

I’m seeing selfies as a moment, that you check your appearance in the mirror just before you left your house. You look at yourself, you clear up dusted on your t-shirt, you straighten your hair, and all that stuff. Finally, you are ready to present yourself to the community. Actually, selfies, in a way work like that, your possible “best” which is well controlled and designed by you, and easily appreciated by large scale of the community. 

Considering above mentioned psychological thoughts, I think the scale of the audience is making huge impact on the desire of taking selfies. As a matter of fact, Oxford dictionary defines selfies as
“ a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website”

Apart from the scale of distribution, in both cases “you in front of a mirror” and “you in a selfie”, they all attributes of your physicality. Mark Leary, Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience, argues that “through the clothes one wears, one’s expression, staging of the physical setting, and the style of the photo, people can convey a particular public image of themselves, presumably one that they think will garner social rewards.” 

When I look at visual researches on selfies, people are more likely to share happy, playful, cute moments. (selfiecity.net) Karen Nelson-Field, Senior Research Associate at Ehrenberg-Bass Institute for Marketing Science, sees that “ we now all behave as brands and the selfie is simply brand advertising. Selfies provide an opportunity to position ourselves (often against our competitors) to gain recognition, support and ultimately interaction from the targeted social circle. This is no different to consumer brand promotion.”

So, when I think of the discussion we had at last meeting, we came into some sort of a conclusion that representational mode that begins with the invention of perspective which aims to be immersive and interactive on a mostly religious discourse, today became like a “self-cult”. I guess, I can add or improve this logic towards a “self-brand” which similarly gains value through new social currencies.


Now, I think I have ground level ideas and knowledge about the topic. I want to continue research on much more specifically and preferably from legit academic resources. Most likely, focusing on selfies, apart from that, I will look at history of self portraits, in order to find inspirations from the artists, so hopefully, I will be able to rearrange my practice by mixing all of these findings. For now, mirror, reflection and loneliness are the keywords that I will keep in my mind during following weeks of the process.


In addition to various videos on youtube and open university courses, and textbooks of psychology students, and off course wikipedia, here are the cited resources;

Digital Nation, by Douglas Rushkoff, http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/digitalnation/

Generation Like, by Douglas Rushkoff, http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/generation-like/

Mark Leary, http://blog.oup.com/2013/11/scholarly-reflections-on-the-selfie-woty-2013/

Viral marketting: The Science of Sharing, by Karen Nelson Field, 


Self/ Portrait
Body/ Embody
Reflection/ Mirror
User/ Viewer
User experience
Non-linear Narrative

In the previous post, I mentioned human to human interaction and human to computer interaction.
After I dig in to the term deeply, I found out that interactivity is integral element to Western mode of representation which includes from church paintings, sculptures, to contemporary digital media environments. Actually, I can say that interactivity is one of the biggest goals of the discourse.

In visual arts, discovery of perspective made huge impact on interactivity between viewer and the artwork. According to Mark Meadows, there are two kinds of perspective in an interactive narrative; emotional and visual perspective. Visual perspective can be defined similar to our vision in front od a giant building. Top of the building collapses in to the horizon and appears as a triangular form. Emotional perspective is a cognitive process, which is interdependent to the visual perspective. By looking at a tall building, we experience physicality of the building, and at the same time we feel small and fragile. That is the reason of most governmental buildings has huge infrastructures and big doors, in order to make you feel the authority and power.

There is two examples I found quite interesting and related to my interest and practice; Giotto di Bondone’s paintings and Tilman Schneider’s wood sculpture.

In late 13th century, Italian painter Giotto di Bondone depicted historical and religious scenes 
by using visual perspective, in order to create sense of location for the viewer. He made some his best work at the Church of San Francesco at Italy. These site specific paintings, at first glance,  looks like oddly angled lines and deformed images. But, when you stand the exact location that you need to be, narrative becomes visible and immersive. He believed the visual and emotional perspective feed and enrich each others. Giotto uses an interactive framework that forces viewer to take action; to stand in the right place. By doing so, he promotes the relationship between two perspectives.

Similarly German sculptor Tilman Riemenschneider, in 1490 created his masterpiece, Holy Blood Altar which we can find traces of Giotto’s perspectivist approach. He was commissioned by the Church in order to depict a religious moment; last supper of the Christ. There is a conversation depicted in the scenery. Only the one man in the middle looks at you, and point holy bread. Your perspective merged in the same line with the person. Now, interactive narrative enriched by human gestures and conventions
Holy Blood Altar, by Tilman Riemenschineider, 1490

Early traces of interactivity in western culture is mostly depicts religious or mythic moments, and stories, by using perspectivist approach.

Both pieces demand viewer to be in the right place in order to interact. Not the same but similarly, positioning and interaction of the viewer is also important in Happennings. In this case, different from the previous examples of interactivity, narrative becomes non-linear and sometimes unexpected. Yet, certain elements of a happening decided by the artists, narrative of the pieces is open to improvisation and can be formed and directed by the audience. At this stage, audience may become the narrator, yet he/she doesn’t know the end of the narrative.

The reason behind tendency towards interactivity in these pieces is that quality of interaction can affect the meaning of the piece, it enriches the narrative, helps and stimulates the viewer in order to learn about the story. It makes sense when I think about the subject matters of the mentioned pieces, which are mostly religious and political. 

Further than that, I can expand it to contemporary media tools, such as Tv, radio, internet, etc. For instance Tv which is an interactive device that allows you to create non-linear narratives by changing channels. So, you can observe same news from different broadcasters, and grasp it more deeply and differently compared to a linear narrative. Also, in terms of interactivity, almost all contemporary digital media environments, radio, internet, computer, etc. designed for single user experience, only the feedback is experienced together with public domain.

In addition to the first post, I can say that interactivity can be considered as a way of story telling, that affects cognitive efforts and understanding of the user.

Interactivity and photography

It is well known fact that artists used camera lucida and obscure as a guide to their paintings, since early stages of Renaissance. We can say that perspectivist approach finds its superior state with invention of camera. But, unlikely, relationship between interactivity and artwork is not the same as it is with painting and sculpture. In this context, examples, we can talk about mostly demands mental interaction of the viewer, not physical.

As a key artwork, it worth looking at Alfred Stieglitz’s Equivalents which is series of cloud photographs. He describes the whole series as an equivalent of his world view and mastery on photography. Photographs taken from 1924 to 1934. This is the time that photography’s indexical abilities glorified by different sources artists, newspapers, scientific publications, etc. He exhibited his work when photographs considered recordings of life, in other words every element in a photograph signifies and creates meaning. But, in Equivalents, there was no apparent meaning which you can tell immediately. There is well crafted ambiguity, and organisation of cloud formations. He demands viewers’ mental interaction in order to create the meaning. Following conversation between Stieglitz and a reporter explains the impact of the photographs:

Man (looking at a Stieglitz Equivalent): Is this a photograph of water?
Stieglitz: What difference does it make of what it is a photograph?
Man: But is it a photograph of water?
Stieglitz: I tell you it does not matter.
Man: Well, then, is it a picture of the sky?
Stieglitz: It happens to be a picture of the sky. But I cannot understand why that is of any importance.

Approach reminds me Giotto’s intention to combine visual and emotional perspectives. Stieglitz arranges his camera in order to create an ambiguous texture and defamiliarises clouds, deploys and abstract narrative. By doing so, he is promoting emotional perspective of the scenery.

Gas Tanks series, Bernd and Hilla Becher, from 1963 to 1975
Another example can be Bernd and Hilla Becher’s typological series, but this time emotional perspective almost completely hidden, its better to say hid by photographer. Becher’s work focuses on industrial buildings water towers, silos, factories, mines. They photographed these structures in such neutral way, so that the viewer observe the visual qualities of them without affecting by the photographers point of view on the subject. Photographers intervention to the scene is almost invisible. Subjects depicted similarly, with same whether conditions, and proportions. In this case, emotional perspective is depends on completely the visual qualities of subjects.

Thomas Struth’s Museum photographs has an interesting stand point in terms of interactivity, especially his work,  Audience 1”. He photographs museums, captures viewers while they are looking at artworks. In this piece, visitors looking at Michelangelo’s sculpture, “ David”. We can clearly see the girl with red dress is adopting body posture of the sculpture, and in a way, mental interactivity of the viewer embodied with the girl in the photo.
Audience 1, by Thomas Struth

Mobile photography and interactivity

When I think of broader and more contemporary sense, and searched for photography and interactivity, I came up with mobile photography which involve social interaction. Though photography history, fair amount of the photographs taken by now taken in last few years, and quite a big part of these photographs are on the internet, especially on web 2.0 applications, such as facebook, flickr, twitter, etc. Meaning, there are humongous amount of stories and experiences shared, interpreted, shared, by users. 

I think interaction of the photos that shared through in social networks, are far from than traditional photographs. Cutting, pasting, editing a photograph became a daily process of the user, it is not something dedicated to the creator. Apart from the drop of the visual quality in the photos, different elements contributes to the meaning. “Like” buttons are one of them. Number of likes can define the value of the photo or helps the exposure of it. Commenting on a photo is also another change of the way we communicate. I don’t think nobody shows their favourite memories photos to their friends, by adding a poem or something like that…  I can say that intimacy of photographs became questionable thing for me.

Also, it is different in the way of being certain time and space. The person who is connected to the social network may reach millions of people, but physically he/she is alone in her/ his room. This kind of virtual socialising, reminds me seasickness. In a boat trip, usually, your eye and brain works   together and makes perceive horizon as a straight line. But, at the same time, your ear fluid which allows you to keep your balance while standing, says “your boat is swinging by the waves”. When these two inputs conflict in brain seasickness happens. Similarly, solitude and togetherness felt at the same time by the user simultaneously. 

In addition to that, experiencing world and daily events affected dramatically. It is visible when we look at the photo on the below. First photograph is taken at year 2005 which is two year before the first generation of iphone. Second is taken at 2013, when mobile photography and sharing environments well established. The difference is “being” at there, and contributing social event, listening pope, replaced with almost completely with “sharing”. 


In this context, Selfies which are, in a way, kind of reflections of users’ personality, takes fair amount of portion within the field of mobile photography. When I consider above mentioned concepts and findings, I plan to conduct my next research in such a way that it covers selfies, interactivity, and photography.

In practice, I keen to produce a piece that has an interactive digital framework and hoping to illustrate/ explore/ interpret the social interaction of self portraits within the digital realm. I am not up to traditional ways of photographic representation, although research may render such results then I can consider using traditional methods. But, I’ d rather prefer using digital tools which may provide me enough flexibility to reach my goals. And, off course, decisions can be formed into another dimension which I am open to find it thorough the semester.


My keyword is interactivity.

I think interactivity designates quality of interaction which occurs between at least two elements; sender(s) and receiver(s).

These two poles may change their operations according to interactive framework. Conversation can be considered a natural interaction between human beings. Here, the interactive framework, involves speaking, body language, gestures, mimics etc. The conversation will be formed by these two poles, sender and receiver within a interchangeable feedback loop. In that sense, we can say that interactive frame works are a mode of communication.

Also, interactivity can be matter of communication between human and computer interface. For instance, in a video- game, mouse and keyboard transcode our subconscious activity into computer language and returns with a feedback. So, user interacts with the framework which is designed by the developer, and contributes to the interaction.

Interactivity of a certain framework may define mental properties. I think it is one of the biggest wonders of abstract photography which is huge part of my artistic practice. In my view, abstract photographs land an entrance point for the viewer, and demand the interpretation of the viewer. Compared to straight photography which deploys an indexical narrative, the meaning of the photograph depends on the mental interactivity of the viewer in abstract photography.