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.
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/
Alone together, by Sherry Turkle, http://www.amazon.com/Alone-Together-Expect-Technology-Other/dp/0465031463
Connected, but alone?, by Sherry Turkle, http://www.ted.com/talks/sherry_turkle_alone_together?language=en
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,