Know Thy Selfie —

Mark C. Marino
BuzzAdemia Now!
Published in
3 min readJan 26, 2015


An exercise in Selfie Reflection

An essay assignment — for #SelfieClass at USC

Prompt: How do your selfies produce or obscure a sense of your identity?

How do we create our selves? These days, one selfie at a time. And each selfie bears information that can be used to read our identity characteristics: our race-ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and socio-economic status.

Painted toes overlook the spray from a speed boat. What do we learn from Beyoncé’s feet? (Instagram photo by Beyoncé Jan 16, 2015 at 11:56pm UTC)

Take or choose 5 selfies of yourself. You may be alone or with another person, but try to make sure you are a central and large part of the photo. All of the selfies should be different.

Examine your selfies for your performance of:
Socio-economic status

Consider these identity characteristics independently and as they intersect.

Sitting statuesque among ancient stones — Instagram photo by Beyoncé * Jan 6, 2015 at 9:56pm UTC

Write a thesis-driven essay in answering the prompt:

How do your selfies produce or obscure a sense of your identity?

Choose 5 selfies of yourself and analyze them for your construction of three intersecting and overlapping identity characteristics.

Look at all elements of the way you present yourself
—Clothing, pose, facial expression

But also the elements of the framing of the picture:
—Background, lighting, proximity, angle of the camera.

And last any other elements in the picture:
—People, animals, objects…

The icon recreates an iconic image of workingclass women’s might — Instagram photo by Beyoncé * Jul 22, 2014 at 1:41pm UTC


Some questions for reflection as you prepare your response.

What in your selfies is accurate?
What is obscured or ambiguous?
Does the image portray one identity trait more than others?
Where do the images place you in the spectrum of possibilities for each characteristic trait — for example, more or less feminine or masculine?
How might different audiences perceive the images differently?
How is the viewer addressed in the image?
How do your selfies play off other well-known images? How do they play off each other?
What is the apparent context of this image? How does that affect how it might be read?

The Grill re-imagined a la Vampires at Tiffany’s — Instagram photo by Beyoncé * Apr 13, 2014 at 10:38pm UTC

Although you will be choosing 3 identity characteristics, please do not write a five paragraph essay, giving one paragraph to each characteristic. Instead, create a thesis and develop your argument as you go, building and deepening your argument, adding nuance as you go.

Serene MacBooking with head turned, mindfulness via Cupertino — Instagram photo by Beyoncé * Jan 22, 2015 at 12:16am UTC

Relevant Readings:
Jill Walker Rettberg: Seeing Ourselves Through Technology
W.E.B. Dubois. “Of Our Spiritual Strivings.” The Souls of Black Folk.
Herbert J. Gans. Symbolic ethnicity: The future of ethnic groups and cultures in America
Stuart Hall: Representation and the Media
Judith Butler: Your Behavior Creates Your Gender

Additional Questions for reflection
(by Adeline Koh, Associate Prof. of literature, Director of dh@stockton) Consider these features of the selfies in order to make your writing more concrete and detailed.

☺ How do your selfies perform race/ethnicity, social/economic status, sexuality/gender as a group?

☻What choices do you make to present yourself and what does this say about you: Clothing, pose, facial expression

☺How do you frame the picture to construct meaning about your image?Background, lighting, proximity, angle of the camera

☻Other elements in the picture? Objects? Other people? Location?

☺ Does the image/do the images portray one identity trait more than others? Why/how?

☻How does your selfie/do your selfies play off other well-known images, or each other?

☺ Analyze the context of the selfies, and how it affects how they might be interpreted.



Mark C. Marino
BuzzAdemia Now!

writer/researcher of emerging digital writing forms. Prof of Writing @ USC, Dir. of Com. for ELO, Dir. of HaCCS Lab