The Art of the Selfie

Dark haired woman selfieRetro sailor girl selfie

This week my students and I visited the Salina Art Center to see an exhibit on the Selfie.

The show featured very large prints of selfie photographs of real people from the Salina community found on social media websites. With the consent of the people being featured in the photos, the artists printed the photos out in a very large format, some were perhaps six or eight feet across, so it was a very different experience from viewing them on Facebook.

The students really began thinking about the constructed nature of the selfie photograph, and social media in general. They had some strong opinions about the people in the photos, as well as the artists who put the show together. One digital media student was really upset by the pixelation visible in the photographs. I’m glad that this is becoming a point of irritation, because it usually bothers me too, and I want students to notice and fix it when it appears in their work. However, the pixels were so large that the artists obviously intended for us to see them, which is an idea I always want my students to consider.

When understand the media, we become media literate by asking five key questions.

  1. Who created this message?
  2. What creative techniques are used to attract my attention?
  3. How might different people understand this message differently than me?
  4. What lifestyles, values and points of view are represented in; or omitted from, this message?
  5. Why is this message being sent?

While we touched upon the point of view of the artist, much of our discussion centered around these questions from the perspective of the original creator of the selfie photos. For an interesting riff on this art exhibit, find three selfies from your own social networks. Obtain permission from the creator to post them on your blog, then post them and answer the five key questions. You could even take it a step further and modify them as the artists George & Jon did in the show we saw. You could make them bigger, intentionally making them become pixelated. You could crop or otherwise edit them. Have fun with it. Then, comment on this post so I can see what you came up with.


3 thoughts on “The Art of the Selfie

  1. Hey Bill,

    I like how you had your students student a subject that is so current in this day and age. Interesting something as simple as a selfie can have to much meaning or can even be broke down to mean something else. Also, I found it interesting that you all viewed it differently viewed it differently when the pictures were enlarged.

    1. Hi Chalandra,

      Yes, I think media literacy is an important skill for students to acquire. I have only recently begun teaching it in my courses, but it is a good way to teach critical thinking about the media. Thanks for dropping by.

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