Ours is a digital culture in which visuals of our selves are routinely snapped, shared, and spread. Why has the selfie become a primary means of communicating information in the digital age, and what exactly is being communicated? How are our identities, communities, and digital culture shaped and affected? In this Byrne Seminar, under the direction of Professor Mary Chayko, twenty first-year Rutgers University students will explore these issues and share our findings, our ideas, and our selfies.
It’s the final day of the Selfies and Digital Culture Byrne Seminar! Something that I learned from this class is how selfies affect our culture more than I realized. This being my first college class, I’m coming from a place where, for the last four years, I was not allowed to use my phone in the classroom. The fact that we had an entire class revolving around selfies shows how culture and the classroom is changing rapidly. The selfie is an expression of our digital culture and we should take them and embrace them!
So, during our class visit to the Zimmerli, this one particular piece titled Celebrities of the Juste Milieu, caught my eyes. My favorite part about it are the facial expressions. In today’s digital culture the selfies we post, and the emotions that we express in them tell the world a lot about us, or rather what we want the world to know about us. This piece was interesting because the artist depicted these “celebrities” in the image that he wanted the world to see. Portraits can tell a lot about a person.
Is a selfie a work of art? I absolutely believe it is. The different self portraits I saw at the museum made me realize that just because our culture is digitalized now more than ever doesn’t mean photos taken from phones and cameras aren’t works of art. Just like there is a deeper meaning behind a painting, specifically a painting of an individual, there is also a meaning behind a selfie taken from a camera. While painting, an artist tries to make the model look their very best, working carefully with different colors and techniques. That is what went into painting those older paintings in the museum. In the modern world, we try to look our best in selfies, adjusting the lighting and adding filters to enhance the picture. A photo, whether it is a selfie or not, is considered art in my eyes. #RuSelfieProject
Along George St., there is Joyce Kilmer Park, a small but beautiful area where many students and locals take a breath of fresh air. Although we all just met, we are able to document a moment that we will remember forever. In today’s digital culture, we are so used to such a fast pace lifestyle that we forget to pause, look around us, and remember and appreciate our surrounding and whom we’re with. Selfies are a perfect way of doing just that. #RUSelfieProject #Team3
The Byrne seminar “Selfies and Digital Culture” students weren’t always in their classroom in the new Academic Building– they visited George Street Camera and the Zimmerli Art Museum, explored New Brunswick and the College Ave. campus, and took selfies on their own — but when they were, they looked like this:
There were about 10-13 people in Starbucks that day and most of them were staring at their screens. Some were socializing with people who weren’t in the building, through Facebook. Others were working on essays or reports, for both work and academics. Some were just consuming media on YouTube and Netflix. Weirdly enough this coffee shop where most people don’t talk to each other has so much more collaboration and human interaction going on than one would assume after a superficial observation. If you look deeper you can imagine all the people socializing and working together through those laptop screens and you realize that there might be many more people involved digitally than there are physically.
So we went out for Dunkin Donuts beverages and of course had to snap a pic of it to let the world know how delicious it is. Why do we feel the need to share pictures of the food we are eating and drinking? It certainly doesn’t make it taste any better. Perhaps we aren’t even appreciating the taste as much because we are too busy taking pictures of it. Or it could be that we appreciate it more because we saved the moment and remember how good it was.