We are all? I am not?

 

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This week, we were asked to evaluate three phenomena with regard to identification (i.e. feeling a personal affinity for a position ) and interpellation (i.e. feeling we have been, or could be  ‘hailed as one’ by others.)

Today, I think it’s probably fair to say I  identify most heavily with the “I am not Trayvon Martin” campaign. Interestingly, I might not have said that  when the verdict of the Treyvon Martin case came out. I remember feeling shocked and angered that night. I remember that in protest, I changed my Facebook icon to a simple black square. Then I changed it to a picture  of Travyvon’s face. Originally, my intention was to show my support for those seeking justice, much like those around the world who watched the murder of Neda Agha Soltan in Iraq, and then claimed, “We are all Neda.”

I changed the icon back to my own after a few Black friends of mine began writing on their own pages about the fact that they now feared for their own safety, or the safety of their children. That’s when it hit me: although I identified with the fight for justice in the Trayvon case, I would never be interpellated as a “threatening” or “thug” or any of the other incendiary language used by the defendant in that trail.  Of course, I could be interpellated in other ways linked to sexism, rape culture and so forth. But I think it is safe to say that nobody is ever going to shoot me on sight because they feel threatened by my presence in a hoodie on a dark night.

According to theorists of  racism, both desire and fear for the “other” is predicated on a series of beliefs regarding what that “other” is–and by logical extension, what we believe we are not. Today, I still find the images and stories in “I am not Trayvon Martin” to be emotionally moving and politically galvanizing. Is this because I identify as not-Black and not-male? Probably. Is it because I also identify as committed to learning to undo racist behavior at conscious and unconscious levels? Definitely.

I would love to hear your thoughts about the projects listed above, or another one you think speaks more to you.

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My Pelfie, Myself

Screen Shot 2014-09-11 at 3.13.11 PM This week, we were asked to look through our selfies, and choose one that we felt  might be representative of “life in 2014 in your country.” We were then asked to think about how that photo might read to researchers from the future. Personally, I like  thought experiments like this: they get me to make connections I might not have made otherwise.

The photo attached is an example of what I mean. This is a selfie (or ‘pelfie’) featuring my sweet cat, Cleo. As anyone who follows my Facebook knows, I have two cats, Cleo and Nero. One is nice, one is naughty, and both are pretty entertaining. I am not ashamed to say my pets have made me a more loving, patient, and decent human being. They are a big part of my life, and I spoil them.

When I thought of this photo as having the burden of representing the population of my entire country, though, it gave me pause. Out of interest, I Googled, “Americans love pets more than people” and found some sobering information. In one study, many respondents claimed their animal was their best friend. This post, which details the precisely where pets come from, as well as the history of commercial pet ownership in the United States, was fascinating (disclosure: I got my animals through a group called The American Street Cat.) This interview with the author of the book, One Nation under a Dog, got me thinking about how people from other parts of the world might view my preoccupation with my animals.

The fact is, I live in a country that spent over 56 billion dollars taking care of pets last year. That reflects a substantial amount of disposable income–a privilege I try to be conscious of, but know I’ll never fully appreciate, because I’ve lived in America for most of my life.  In the past, when I displayed my pets, it never occurred to me that in someone else’s eyes, I might be flaunting my wealth as well.  Now it’s something I’ll think more about. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying my photo of sweet Cleo is equivalent to the posts of   Rich Kids of Instagram,, and I’ll still be telling stories of myself and my pets. I’ll just try to be more conscious of what a gift it is to even be able to do such a thing.

I’d love to hear from others about which selfie they chose as the one most representative of someone from their country, circa 2014. Show me your picture, and tell me your story, please!

 

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Selfies: Your first time?

Screen Shot 2014-09-07 at 6.53.58 PMOH HAI 2001

I’m Terri Senft (New York University, USA), and together with Gaby David (EHESS, France), I’ll be running the online conversations for this week of our Studying Selfies course. I’m excited!

Since this week’s topic is selfie and identity, I thought I’d begin with one of my first memories of selfie production. These are from a webcam I ran 24/7 in my house, while working on my book Camgirls: Celebrity and Community in the Age of Social Networks. This is not a plug for my book (it’s old news now–the date on these photos is 2001!) but rather a  prompt to get you thinking about your first selfies.

Can you remember when you started taking photos of yourself? Can you recall when the practice started getting popular among your peers? Did it have to do with developments around technology (e.g. folks getting their first camera phones), developments around peer performance of self (e.g. posting moments of life on Instagram, Facebook, SnapChat etc.), developments around siblings (e.g. your sister or brother was doing it), or something else entirely?

Let me know. I’m interested! Stories, photos–all are welcome.

PS: For those interested long post on the first photo reads, ” Because I am not talking to you, it does not follow that I am a bitch.” Ah, youth.

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