Amparo LASEN, Professor of Sociology at the University Complutense de Madrid. research focuses on the usages, practices and presence of ICTs in relationship with affectivity, intimacy and the configuration of contemporary subjectivities. She was the Vodafone Surrey Scholar at the DWRC of Surrey University, where she conducted cross-cultural research on mobile phone practices. She has been academic visitor at the Department of Sociology of the LSE and researcher of the CEAQ (Centre d’Études de l’Actuel et du Quotidien) Paris V-La Sorbonne. http://ucm.academia.edu/AmparoLasén
Digital Self-Portraits, Exposure and the Modulations of Intimacy
The convergence of mobile telephony, digital photography and social media, and the more recent popularity o mobile apps such as Whatssapp or Snapchat have facilitated the development of self-portraits practices. A photographic genre that was almost exclusively artistic becomes part of everyday photography. Taking and sharing selfies is a banal and playful activity producing new habits and gestures: like taking pictures in front of a mirror (what Spanish photographer Joan Fontcuberta (2010) calls “reflectograms”) or outstretching the arm to take a snapshot. The growing presence and display of such pictures and the development of visual forms of communication and interaction, supported by mobile devices, increase personal exposure, as well as provide ways of modulating intimacy, problematizing its relationship with the public/private divide; for instance in the public display of the domestic and private settings where many of these pictures are taken; or in the erotic games and forms of self-pornification created in such practices. Drawing on empirical research carried out with adults (25-45 years old) in Madrid, this paper discusses divers implications of this exposure and modulation of intimacy related to how self-portraits practices and their display and exchange entail three different and interrelated aspects: presentation, representation and embodiment. These pictures are forms of online presentation in front of an audience of strangers, acquaintances and friends. They are representation and performances of the self for oneself and for the others, with different degrees of authenticity and playful staging; as well as they contribute to a double inscription of bodies, online and offline. Thus, self-portraits take part in contemporary embodiment processes through the ways we shape and perceive ourselves, and in regard to how we relate to our bodies. These three aspects mobilize a complex and reversible gaze and grab (Senft, 2008) game: where we are at the same time the photographer, the model who poses and the audience, not only because we look at other people’s selfies, but because we put ourselves in the place of the potential viewers, introducing their preferences, expectations and evaluations.