An international group of academics is facilitating a pre-conference workshop at the Association of Internet Researchers (AoIR) conference in Bangkok in October 2015. Before the half day in Bangkok, we will have a three week online workshop which will be open to scholars, teachers and students around the world, whether or not they are able to come to Bangkok.
Show Me Your Selfies: A Teaching Workshop
Theresa Senft, Jill Walker Rettberg, Elizabeth Losh, Radhika Gajjala, Kath Albury, Alice Marwick, Crystal Abidin
This Pre-Conference Workshop explores how researchers might engage in teaching practices using “selfies”: photos taken of the self, usually with one’s phone, often circulated online. We feel that as part of the internet’s ‘visual turn,’ selfies provide an accessible “way in” for educators working with students on issues like information literacy and cultural sensitivity. Students studying selfie production, consumption, deletion, circulation and abstention can also gain insights into social dynamics often at play in their personal lives on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Reddit, WeChat and Tumblr.
Although our pedagogy is intentionally broad, we are especially interested getting students thinking about critically about selfies in the following contexts:
· Selfie as a byproduct of agency. Why does selfie-making seem to lend itself to discussions featuring words like “narcissistic”, “empowering,” “objectifying,” and so forth?
· Selfie as a media genre. What is the selfie’s relationship to documentary, autobiography, advertising, and celebrity?
· Selfie as cultural signifier: what social work does a selfie do in communities where it was intended to circulate, and what happens when it circulates beyond those communities?
Our workshop is somewhat unique in that it has been conceptualized as having two phases: a three week online session running from September 29 to October 19, followed by a half day session in Bangkok for conference attendees.
In the online session, participants will work practically and analytically with selfies by creating, sharing and discussing self-reflexive images and texts according to set weekly assignments. Assignments will be appropriate for both undergraduate and graduate courses in disciplines like digital culture, communications, ethnography, gender studies, cultural studies or visual studies. Participants can be individual scholars, teachers and students but also teachers with a group of students from existing courses.
Practically, the online session will consist of emails from the facilitators presenting weekly themes, readings, and links. Possible assignments, which will involve photography exercises and contributions to an online discussion, might include:
. creating (and reflecting on) “academic selfies” of oneself as student or scholar
. creating (and reflecting on) a “selfie that can’t be used by authorities to locate you”
. comparing online selfie art projects to earlier feminist, queer and postcolonial photographic self-portraiture from artists like Francesca Woodman, or Roshini Kempadoo
. evaluating the methods used in data collection projects like Selfiecities, and comparing what news reports about that project said the project ‘proved’, versus what the researchers themself claim
. creating (and reflecting on) a selfie that creates ‘buzz’ in particular social network communities in order to think through industry ‘buzz’ terms like ‘attention economy’
. other assignments engage issues of access, inequity and youth.
All participants will be invited share their images to a private Flickr group, which will also be the site of workshop discussions. Enrollment will be open until the course begins, and then closed in order to preserve a safe space for participants to share freely. At the end of the online session participants will select images they are willing to share openly and post these and key findings of the workshop discussions to Twitter or elsewhere with a shared hashtag.
The online session will be open to all. Running this as an online, open joint course with participants from around the world will provide valuable opportunities for inter-cultural discussions, which is important with selfies as they are used and experienced differently in different cultures and contexts. It will also serve to introduce students around the world to an international research network, and to AoIR.
Although our plan is to run the online workshop as a three week real-time event, we will also make the assignments available in advance (May/June) and encourage teachers who are unable to follow the whole course with their students to use individual assignments or adapt assignments.
In Bangkok, we will discuss and analyse the practical work done in the online session, and share and discuss alternative assignments and pedagogical approaches to selfies. We envision this as a half day workshop. We will include short presentations from participants who have taught selfies, in order to hear success stories as well as “teaching fails”. These participants will be recruited during the online workshop, and we will also post an open call to the AoIR list. We also plan to open up the Bangkok session to scholars who cannot attend the conference in person by streaming video and keeping an open online discussion space. If we have internet access for the workshop we can take responsibility for this ourselves.
Our main motivation for this workshop is our own interest in teaching and working with selfies, but more generally we want to create spaces within the AoIR community to think about pedagogy. We see this as a pilot for possible future international joint courses, or shared teaching resources. At the workshop we will discuss these possibilities further.