Vote for my selfie: Politician selfies as charismatic leadership

Politicians taking selfies have received their fair share of praise for connecting with voters during campaign trails, and flak for inappropriate displays ala the widely publicized Cameron-Thorning-Obama selfie at Nelson Mandela’s funeral in December 2013. But what happens when politicians take to regularly publishing self-curated selfie streams on their personal social media accounts? When selfies are the new political photo op, the everyday and mundane can become a spectacle and a site for naturalized vernacular campaigning. This talk looks at Singaporean Minister of Parliament (MP) Baey Yam Keng as a case study in investigating how charismatic leadership can be mediated through the repertoire of social media and popular selfie tropes. In the wake of voting campaigns taking to online ground in the most recent General Elections 2011, and with the ruling party having garnered its lowest share of electoral votes since state independence, MP Baey has emerged as a press-branded ‘selfie king’, ‘social media celebrity’, and ‘Twitter influencer’ for engaging with the online citizenry since publishing his first selfie in March 2013, with a fan base to boot. Drawing on his Instagram feed and selfie-related engagements, this talk seeks to demonstrate how politician selfies can be exercised to solicit affect and mobilize public sentiment among voters.

Abidin, C. (2015) “Vote for my selfie: Politician selfies as charismatic leadership (plenary speaker)” Selfie Citizenship, Digital Innovation, Manchester Metropolitan University, Manchester. Apr 16, 2015.

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