They are the lifeblood of Facebook, and priceless PR for presidential candidates. Even the Pope pauses to pose now and then for a selfie.
The significance of the selfie, self-portraits and social media are the topics of the seventh William A. Kern Conference in Visual Communication, April 14-16 at The Strathallen hotel in Rochester.
“Selfies are obviously trendy, but I want to take a serious look at what we are saying with them, how we can understand the selfie as a strategic communication tool and what selfies say about our humanity,” said Jonathan Schroeder, Rochester Institute of Technology’s William A. Kern Professor in Communications.
One reason for the popularity of selfies, Schroeder said, is they have given people a new form of expression. “For a lot of people, selfies can be a way to represent themselves, rather than the way they are portrayed by other people,” he said.
The conference is open to all, is free for RIT students, faculty and staff, and will feature speakers from around the world.
One speaker is Marc Tasman, from the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, who took a self-portrait of himself every day for 10 years as an art project.
“For some time, underlaying my way of working has been the concept of action: the making, the doing of something, without editing or parsing, mostly as a solitary actor,” Tasman wrote on his website. “This practice includes a ritualistic type of memorializing: I made a Polaroid self-portrait daily – more than 4,600 images taken on 3,654 consecutive days. A photo-selfie endurance performance.”
Others will talk about selfies taken by those who have felt marginalized, including women, or individuals who are deaf, transgendered or of a minority race.
“Anyone who is interested in contemporary trends in photography, and those who are into social media and how selfies go viral, would be interested in the conference,” he said.
Qinjin Yang, a graduate student majoring in communication and media technologies at RIT, plans to attend the conference.
“I am very interested in how people deal with selfies and how they interact with them, using it as a tool to communicate with others,” he said. “The conference will definitely be helpful for my research here at RIT because my proposed thesis is to be about selfies, specifically how selfies posted online serve to save one’s face.”
The attendees will also visit the George Eastman Museum, where they can see a selection of self-portraits from the Gannett Foundation Study Center’s collection.
For more information or to register, go to https://www.rit.edu/cla/kern/register.