Beyond the self: Intersubjectivity and the social semiotic interpretation of the selfie

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As an iconic image of our time, the selfie has attracted much attention in popular media and scholarly writing. The focus so far has been on the representation of the self or subjectivity. We propose a complementary perspective that foregrounds the intersubjective function of the selfie. We argue that the presence of selfhood is often an assumption. What distinguishes the selfie from other photographic genres is its ability to enact intersubjectivity – the possibility for difference of perspectives to be created and this difference to be shared between the image creator and the viewer. Based on a social semiotic analysis of selfies on Instagram, we identify four subtypes of selfie, each deploying a combination of visual resources to represent a distinct form of intersubjectivity. Our analysis suggests that the potential for empowerment is inherent in the visual structure of the selfie, and that, as a genre, it is open for recontextualisation across contexts and social media platforms.

LanguageEnglish
JournalNew Media & Society
Volume20
Issue number5
Pages (from-to)1735– 1754
ISSN1461-4448
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2018