16 April 2015, @The Shed, Digital Innovation, MMU
Organised by Adi Kuntsman, Farida Vis and Simon Faulkner
The workshop brings together researchers from a variety of disciplines, fields and backgrounds to explore the notion of “selfie citizenship” — the growing use of the selfie-genre and, more broadly, the networked circulations of individual and group self-portraits for “acts of citizenship” (Isin 2008).
In the recent years we have become accustomed to photographs of individuals with hand-written banners, as well as to various selfie memes and hashtag actions (#NoMakeUpSelfie, #WeAreAllClean, #SmearforSmear as well as #ICan’tBreathe, #BlackLivesMatter and #UseMeInstead, to mention just a few), spread on social media as actions of protest and political or social statements. Their circulation is global, and their iconography is often deceivingly similar, yet their motivations, causes and context vary – some stand against police abuse or military occupation, others call for clearer cities or smaller classrooms, yet others promote a charity cause or a social awareness, and there are those that incite violence or call for a war. Further, while some perform citizenship as a form of nationalism, other mobilise notions of global citizenship, and yet others operate in contexts where citizenship is absent, in question or violently denied.
Such mobilisation of the selfie genre – understood broadly as self-portraits in viral digital circulation – clearly challenges the prevalent popular view of selfies as narcissistic, inherently a-political and even anti-social. Yet selfie citizenship still remains to be theorised, both as a framework for different understanding of selfies, and as a way to think differently about citizenship in the social media age. This workshop was set up to create a space for an intellectual and political conversation around the notion of selfie citizenship, bringing together scholars of visual culture, social and digital media, and cultural citizenship, into a much needed dialogue that explores the work of selfies, but also charts new directions to think about citizenship as a political, affective, visual and networked phenomenon.