Perceptual fail: Female power, mobile technologies and images of self

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Like a biological species, images of self have descended and modified throughout their journey down the ages, interweaving and recharging their viability with the necessary interjections from culture, tools and technology. Part of this journey has seen images of self also become an intrinsic function within the narratives about female power; consider Helen of Troy “a face that launched a thousand ships” (Marlowe, 1604) or Kim Kardashian (KUWTK) who heralded in the mass mediated ‘selfie’ as a social practice.

The interweaving process itself sees the image oscillate between naturalized ‘icon’ and idealized ‘symbol’ of what the person looked like and/or aspired to become. These public images can confirm or constitute beauty ideals as well as influence (via imitation) behaviour and mannerisms, and as such the viewers belief in the veracity of the representative image also becomes intrinsically political manipulating the associated narratives and fostering prejudice (Dobson 2015, Korsmeyer 2004, Pollock 2003).

The selfie is arguably ‘a sui generis,’ whilst it is a mediated photographic image of self, it contains its own codes of communication and decorum that fostered the formation of numerous new digital communities and influenced new media aesthetics . For example the selfie is both of nature (it is still a time based piece of documentation) and known to be perceptually untrue (filtered, modified and full of artifice).

The paper will seek to demonstrate how selfie culture is infused both by considerable levels of perceptual failings that are now central to contemporary celebrity culture and its’ notion of glamour which in turn is intrinsically linked (but not solely defined) by the province of feminine desire for reinvention, transformation or “self-sexualisation” (Hall, West and McIntyre, 2012). The subject, like the Kardashians or selfies, is divisive.

In conclusion this paper will explore the paradox of the perceptual failings at play within selfie culture more broadly, like ‘Reality TV’ selfies are infamously fake yet seem to provide Debord’s (1967) illusory cultural opiate whilst fulfilling a cultural longing. Questions then emerge when considering the narrative impact of these trends on engendered power structures and the traditional status of illusion and narrative fiction.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages2
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jul 2019
Externally publishedYes
EventELO 2019: Peripheries Conference and Media Arts Festival - University of Cork, Cork, Ireland
Duration: 15 Jul 201917 Sept 2019


ConferenceELO 2019: Peripheries Conference and Media Arts Festival


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