The Consecration of the Selfie: A Cultural History

Abstract (French version, Spanish version). The term ‘selfie’ corresponds to a late process of identifying a set of photo or video reflexive practices, related to the emergence of an aesthetic of subjectivity. Exploring the articulation between autonomy of shooting and participation in the action, as well as the take-off produced by conversational uses, this article shows that a media controversy triggered this phenomenon. In 2013, the denunciation of the narcissistic character of self-representation or disrespect of values and norms presents the selfie as a subculture. This condemnation led to a response of adhering to a gesture then identified as an impertinent and progressive signature. Contributing to its promotion, the controversy consecrated the selfie as a cultural form, and imposed it as the photographic practice most representative of contemporary visual expression.

Ref. André Gunthert, «The Consecration of the Selfie: A Cultural History», in Julia Eckel, Jens Ruchatz, Sabine Wirth (eds.), Exploring the Selfie: Historical, Analytical and Theoretical Approaches to Digital Self-Photography, Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan, 2018, p. 27-47.

(This paper is a revised version of my keynote at the conference #Selfie –Imag(in)ing the Self in Digital Media, Marburg, 23th April 2015.)

Thelma & Louise, Ridley Scott, 1991 (photogramme).
Screenshot from Thelma & Louise (Ridley Scott, USA 1991)

Just before leaving on a weekend, after stowing their luggage in the trunk of their car, Thelma and Louise, in Ridley Scott’s eponymous film  from 1991, make what at the time nobody yet called a selfie. If this cult film bears any credit for its ethnographic quality, what is striking is the speed and spontaneity with which the two women lend themselves to this exercice.

Not in the least hesitant, Louise (Susan Sarandon) seizes the Polaroid camera, holds it at arm’s length, and gets closer to her friend, Thelma (Geena Davis), who also immediately adopts the appropriate pose. This brief interlude of a few seconds, perfectly reconstructed by the film crew, seems to indicate that the act of situated self-photography1 is already commonplace.

Its use in the beginning of this road movie can be interpreted both as a symbol of the couple’s union and as a sign of independence of the two women, of whom no man takes a picture in their place. In this film, remembered for its feminism2, the inaugural Polaroid functions as a joyous signal of reclaiming independence.

These indications immediately isolate this image from the classic self-portrait, traditionally reserved for representing a single individual, and from its narcissism. As through the presence of the protagonists of the action, the genre is defined by the self-production of the image but also as by it’s highly situated dimension. What Thelma and Louise immortalize is the portrait of a moment and an experience, the beginning of the trip that reunites them, in a photograph that bears their visual signature, both through their presence in the picture and by its self-made nature. A final shot shows the Polaroid blowing away in the wind just before the two women’s car plunges into the ravine.

All these characteristics summarize a discrete use, which already seems to be largely in line with practices. Even in the absence of an official identification, its cinematographic mention qualifies as a certificate of acknowledgement and indicates that it is sufficiently recognizable to be mobilized as an emblem (as demonstrated by the widespread distribution of the promotional photograph reproducing the scene). However, the rise of this gesture in its digital version would be necessary so that the selfie becomes the photographic practice most representative of contemporary visual expression.

Technologies of participative self-photography

According to Gisèle Freund, the historical significance of the rise of photography is the democratization of the self-representation3. But the recording technique based on the principle of optical projection imposes a geometrical separation of the universe into: space of representation versus represented space. According to this division, the operator cannot be part of the picture, except by using means which bypass constraints of the camera.

As long as the photographer was a professional at the service of a client, this exclusion was not a problem at all. But the development of amateur photography gave rise to the desire of the photographer to participate – a logical wish if considering that the operator is no longer an outsider, but a member of the family or friend circle. The self-timer – its first models were marketed in 1902 – is the oldest form of automatization of shooting4. Correcting the optical constraint by the time gap, this tool allows the operator to join in with the group or to photograph him- or herself in situation.

3. Manuel Rétinette, Kodak, v. 1954 .
3. Manuel Retinette, Kodak, v. 1954 .

The user’s guide to the Kodak Retinette , one of the first mainstream models to integrate the self-timer in 1954, explicitly comments on this increased autonomy: «Taking yourself your own photo! Show that you were a part of it and the picture becomes interesting. One cannot always find people willing or capable of handling the camera on site. In the absence of a pod, you only need a stable support and the self-timer does the rest!»

Nevertheless, the self-timer has several drawbacks. Besides the need of a support, it requires the picture to be composed beforehand, therefore excluding spontaneous photography. Giving the camera to a stranger, a documented practice in the context of tourism, must also be considered as a case of self-photography by delegation and a testimony of the constant wish of actors to be present in the picture.

4. André Franquin, Gaston Lagaffe, 1979.
4. André Franquin, Gaston Lagaffe, 1979.

The anthropologist Edmund Carpenter notes that a tourist does not simply record an image of a place: «Better still, he has someone photograph him in front of it. Back home, that photograph reaffirms his identity within that scene5». No doubt that tourism offer a favorable testing ground of participation. Personal confrontation with a cultural reference belongs to the domain of experience. To take a photo at this very moment produces not only a picture of the self or of the place, but a precise trace of their ephemeral articulation, the relationship of the actor to the situation. As pointed out by Pierre Bourdieu, what counts then is not the aesthetic dimension of photographs, but the «singular adventure of the one who has shot them»6.

 5. Autoportraits touristiques, 2002-2009 (coll. part.).
5. Autoportraits touristiques, 2002-2009 (coll. part.).

Participation remains nonetheless, a parameter difficult to reconcile with the autonomy of shooting. There are three main ways of taking a selfie: by using a mirror, by reversing the camera or, with the most recent models, by using the front camera. To this list can be added the original solution suggested in 2005 by Nick Woodman with the GoPro’s action camera format, that adapts the principles of underwater shooting for consumer practices. Created to record sports performances without outside help, the camera is characterized by automatic exposure, a fixation on the action support and the choice of a wide-angle lens which records a wide frame, often including the protagonist’s body. To mention finally a few sub-categories such as photographing feet or reflected shadows, that also allow this inclusion, without using particular tools.

These various methods do not produce the same images, nor under similar conditions (see below). The mirror selfie usually provides a wider field, allowing the control of the frame, but it depends on the availability of a reflective apparatus. The reversed selfie, often considered as the most typical, causes a narrowing of the field, framing on face(s), and must be carried out via guesswork. Optical principles of action-cams allows a wider field but simultaneously impose a particular visual signature. Combining these different practices under the same name is hardly obvious.

6. Different types of selfie.
6. a) mirror selfie, b) reversed selfie, c) front camera iPad, d) feet selfie, e) front camera iPhone 4.

GoPro is not the first camera model specifically designed for participation. As early as 1983, Minolta Disc-7 analog camera was furnished with a convex mirror on the front and a telescopic stick to facilitate self-portraiture. This proposal, also available in the first GSM mobile phone integrating photography, the Sharp J-SH04, commercialized in 2000 in Japan, was not highly adopted. Similarly, the iPhone’s 4 famous front camera, added in 2010, allows only a definition of 480 x 640 pixels. With a quality a much inferior to the smartphone’s 2 megapixel camera, the front camera was actually thought for video chat. This camera belongs to the genealogy of the webcam, an device widely used in the 2000s, especially designed for visual communication rather than for portraiture.

These observations allow to refine questions regarding the selfie’s definition and historicity. The success of the genre encouraged a search for antecedents which quickly fueled a ‘history of the selfie’ – some articles seeming to recapitulate the entire history of the portrait7. This approach appears questionnable since the term “selfie”, attested from 2002, refers clearly to the digital version of self-photography. Moreover, the introduction of this term corresponds to a change in scale of the practice, and to an evolution of its functions and its cultural imprint. It is always dangerous to apply a recent interpretative grid on an older practice. Strictly speaking, any practice prior to 2000, should not be called “selfie”.

However, in the case of selfie, we are not confronted with a technological innovation, the emergence of a format or a genre in the strict sense. As suggested by the seniority and diversity of reflexive forms, the absence of their psychologizing classification, or the fact that manufacturers had, until very recently, not developed corresponding devices, we are then dealing with a bouquet of practices, that the term “selfie” has reunited a posteriori in a cultural construction. Therefore, it belongs to this dynamic to extend its use beyond frontiers or precise acceptations.

Three major developments have been combined to help reveal practices until then discrete. Considering the lack of widespread accessibility to amateur photography before interactive platforms such as Myspace (2003) or Flickr (2004), a key factor is the unprecedented visibility of vernacular productions. What could then be observed, is the extent to which the spread of camphones, lightweight, automatic and easy to use, encourages self-photography. In this context, the visual conversation gives a new usefulness to the selfie.

If these images are preferred as profile pictures rather than the plain passport portrait, because of their fun and original aspect, they are also often followed by messages or captions that reveal the highly contextualized nature of their use. Published in October 2005, a selfie of Flickr’s co-founders Stewart Butterfield and Caterina Fake, titled « Hi Mom », bears the typical indication: «This was sent for my parents as I was talking to them on the phone so they could see the view from where we were standing.»

8. "Hi Mom", selfie de Stewart Butterfield et Caterina Fake, cofondateurs de Flickr, octobre 2005 (licence CC).
8. « Hi Mom », selfie de Stewart Butterfield et Caterina Fake, cofondateurs de Flickr, octobre 2005 (licence CC).

Connected photography and its conversational use make the selfie a vector of a particular type of communication: live notification of a situation, specifically addressed to a receiver. The image here becomes a visual message, the interpretation of which depends heavily on the triangle formed by its sender, the occasion represented, and the intended recipient. In other words the selfie presents a high degree of dependence on context.

One can understand the development of particular forms of online conversation as a response to what some authors describe as a «context collapse», caused by the loss of the multidimensional nature of face-to-face communication8. Like status formats (Twitter initially proposed to answer the question: «What are you doing?»), the selfie produces a message characterized by the situation of its premises and the temporality of the action, as well as the sender’s relationship to this action.

The selfie responds to context collapse by hypercontextualization, which corrects the inaccuracy of interaction and simultaneously becomes a dialogical resource. Contrary to the condemnation of online communication as “egocentric”, the selfie contains only few self-sufficient messages that are meant to stand for themselves. On the contrary, digital conversation promotes a pursuit of interaction and exchange. To this end, it is necessary to provide interlocutors with material that allows or arouses responses. The selfie’s interaction proposal is more attractive because of its personal value, and because of its highly contextualized dimension, factors of engagement in conversation.

The do-it-yourself nature of self-photography adds to these features an aesthetic that has largely contributed to its identification. Playing on the uncertainty of framing, manipulating of the camera, or the amateurism of shooting, the selfie presents a set of visible flaws which have rapidly become the signature of the genre. These flaws, which distance the selfie from stiff rules of portraiture and give it freshness and originality, have been interpreted as signs of authenticity. Overthrowing the iron law of representation, which since Plato’s cave rests on dissimulating the dispositive, the self-made character of image has become a guarantee of spontaneity and authenticity.

Its relaxed, often funny, self-depreciating dimension have confirmed that the selfie is a part of LOL culture and off-beat humor, typical of online expression. Displaying the camera has become its trademark, to an extent that photographs showing a selfie shoot can be mistaken for actual selfies.

11. Sélection de selfies, Buzzfeed, 2013.
11. Sélection de selfies, Buzzfeed, 2013.

The visibility of the selfie on social media must not obscure the fact that its autonomy makes it a favored tool for private communication. Erotic self-photography, even though as old as the recording media, are especially difficult to observe and document due to the discredit associated with pornographic images9. However, accidents such as the hack of celebrity nude photos, about several thousand images which briefly circulated on 4Chan, Imgur or Reddit between August and October 2014, partially unveil these inaccessible sources10.

This sample suggests the huge number of erotic uses of selfies. Most often shot by the actors themselves, ranging from targeted exhibition to preliminary sexual activities, this iconography confirms the decidedly banal nature of self-photography in its uses for seduction. And what these images tell us in their happy carefreeness is the standardization and prodigious expansion of a genre powered by digital autonomy.

12. Extraits du hack de photos privées de stars du 31 août 2014.
12. Extraits du hack de photos privées de stars du 31 août 2014.

The selfie’s controversy

While the selfie in its digital version constitutes a visible practice since the beginning of 2000, which didn’t cause any problems, 2013 would change the scenario. Within a few months two successive media episodes fed a public controversy that eventually ended up making the selfie a cultural symbol.

Still rarely used in 2012, the term “selfie” established itself from early 2013, propelled by a series of articles that point the finger at connected self-photography. ReadWriteWeb and Mashable launched the topic of condemning narcissism of young social network enthusiasts, based on borrowing on popular psychological works and on moral questioning of the role of image in modern societies11. Time magazine devoted the cover of it’s May issue to this topic, followed by several TV shows or famous newspapers such as The New Yorker or The Guardian, which amplified this critical vision by presenting it as a global cultural phenomenon12.

13. "The Me Me Me Generation", couverture de Time du 20 mai 2013.
13. « The Me Me Me Generation », couverture de Time du 20 mai 2013.

Two biases skew this approach. The first is the retrospective research through hashtags for terms such as #me or #selfie. These selections produces artificial corpuses, as such general categories are rarely used in the conversation, and one worldwide study shows that the proportion of selfies is quite low within the entire iconography shared on Instagram (3 to 5%)13. Instead, this sorting makes it appear as a massive phenomenon, taking out of context individual practices, analyzed only on a formal level.

14. Selfies de Rihannah, Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber rediffusés sur des sites people (2013).
14. Selfies de Rihanna, Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber rediffusés sur des sites people (2013).

The second is the intensive use of Instagram and Twitter by a few young, show-business celebrities (especially Justin Bieber, Rihanna and Kim Kardashian). This new communication, directed towards fans, shares the common uses of these medias, and therefore includes selfies. But the fame of these celebrities bestows on these images a far greater viral quality, accentuated by their mention through tabloid websites, that purposefully highlight their provocative character. Several news articles will emphasize on the imitation of auto-photography practices of the stars by young girls14.

This generational reading is based on an iconographic impoverishment. While a paper by Buzzfeed, published in January 2013, illustrated the entire variety of the genre, with funny images, group portraits, family pictures or photos of animals15 (fig. 11), the psychological criticism reduced the sample to solitary portraits, usually of pretty young girls, without any elements of context (fig. 15).

15. Sélection de selfies anonymes, illustration de l'article de Mashable, 2013.
15. Sélection de selfies anonymes, illustration de l’article de Mashable, 2013.

The interpretation of moral decline caused by new technology is founded on the paradigm shift which applies the psychologizing of social facts, initiated in 1979 by Christopher Lasch in his study, The Culture of Narcissism16. The next step was taken by the best-sellers of the psychologist Jean M.Twenge who, as noted by the New York Times, «sees narcissists everywhere17». The author of Generation Me (2006) and The Narcissism Epidemic (2009) argues that the rise of self-esteem education in the 1980s gave birth to a youth who, «have the language of me as their mother tongue18».

If Twenge’s works receive a considerable media coverage, her method as her findings rise violent criticism among specialists in the field. A study conducted by Kali H. Trzesniewski, published in 2008 in Psychological Science, shows that youngsters have not undergone a fundamental change of thought, feelings or behavior over the past 30 years19. In 2013, a special issue of Emerging Adulthood, edited by Jeffrey J. Arnett, seeks to systematical demolish the theories of the psychologist20.

But the strong journalistic potential of a simplistic explanation that combines social phenomenon, scientific authority and moral condemnation, cannot be ignored by the media. Invited to the Today Show or Good Morning America, Jean M.Twenge quickly becomes an all round commentator, interviewed about Facebook as well as the excesses of the cosmetic surgery. Generation Me becomes an explanatory key to understand all the evils of contemporary society, especially in women’s magazines or under “Life style” section, that publish endlessly on selfies.

Although we have never had such a conversational, social and narrative tool as the smartphone/social media system, the fundamental social interaction that Erving Goffman called «The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life21» is interpreted as a narcissistic and anti-social reflection. In a word, we no longer understand social life. To explain contemporary culture, psychiatry has pushed sociology overboard. At least in magazine pages, which apply, without much thought, individualistic schemes fueled by neoliberal ideology.

This first wave popularized the term “selfie”, which would be consecrated in November as the word of the year by the Oxford Dictionaries22. It was followed by a second media wave in the summer of 2013 which confirms its “moral panic” character (or more aptly, its attenuated version as efficient narrative) traditionally aroused by new cultural forms, from rock music to Facebook, which target youths in particular and is accused of perverting moral values and sabotaging social order23.

Two collection of images published in August 2013 on Tumblr by Jason Feifer, titled “Selfies at funerals” and “Selfies at serious places”, which collects self-portraits of teens published on Twitter and Instagram, documents the paradox previously noted by Errol Morris about the photographs of Abu Ghraib24: the reflex of a photographic pose encourages the mimicking of a smile, which can be inappropriate under particular circumstances. The fact that it is the context of the shoot which provokes the ridicule and the critical comments proves once more that the selfie is more than just a portrait. A year later, similar poses taken at the Auschwitz concentration camp aroused outraged reactions on social media, mostly reported by the press25.

18. Extraits du Tumblr Selfies at Funerals, 2013.
18. Extraits du Tumblr Selfies at Funerals, 2013.

The case seems clear. Self-photography encourages bad habits in teenagers, who do not respect the basic rules, nor the most sacred ceremonies. When the Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt took a selfie with her smiling seating partners, Barack Obama and David Cameron during the homage ceremony of Nelson Mandela, on December 11, 2013, the image of the world leaders, «caught in the act of childishness26» made the front page of several newspapers. At this moment, the selfie is already the symbol of narcissism and disrespect, the emblem of all that is revolting and disturbing in the connected culture.

19. Roberto Schmidt, photographie d'un selfie au smartphone par la première ministre danoise Helle Thorning-Schmidt aux côtés de Barack Obama et David Cameron lors de la cérémonie d'hommages à Nelson Mandela, 11 décembre 2013 (AFP).
19. Roberto Schmidt, photographie d’un selfie au smartphone par la première ministre danoise Helle Thorning-Schmidt aux côtés de Barack Obama et David Cameron lors de la cérémonie d’hommages à Nelson Mandela, 11 décembre 2013 (AFP).

The selfie joins with the smartphone as one of the most important embodiments of the ideology of disconnection, illustrating the absurdity of a life continuously documented and the emptiness of a communication transformed into self-branding27. But the apparent unanimity of this condemning did not caused the end of auto-photography at all. Within the structure of a regular controversy, blacklisting the selfie produced a typical response of spontaneous resistance behavior as described by Michel de Certeau28. As the impressionist painters adopted the word chosen by critics, selfie users accepted the totemic labelling of self-photography, to the point of making it an impertinent signature, a modernist statement, a sign of overthrowing hierarchies.

It was the implausible nature of the moral condemnation, associated with an evidently conservative bias29, that had weakened the narcissistic narrative right from the start. Unsurprisingly, the response of selfie practices used resources of viral publishing on social media. Rather than an argumentative reply, the last quarter of 2013 shows the appropriation and repeated mention of art works or advertisement that divert famous cultural references by adding a smartphone to Christopher Columbus, Marilyn Monroe, Albert Einstein, Che Guevara, Superman or Darth Vader portraits…

20. Détournements d'images par ajout de smartphone, 2013.
20. Détournements d’images par ajout de smartphone, 2013.

The collective construction of the meaning of the selfie followed then the separation between conservatism and progressivism, high culture and low culture, elites and the masses. By labeling the selfie as a subculture, the moral censorship managed to put smartphones and social media on the side of geek culture, whereas advocates of an open and egalitarian web had always refused the closed ended Facebook and mobile applications.

Instead of reducing the selfie vogue, media controversy promoted it and contributed in expanding its practice. Its utilisation in advertising and marketing confirmed and strengthened its trend. Its use during the 2014 Oscar ceremony, bringing together the most famous celebrities around the host Ellen DeGeneres, resulted in a tweeting competition confirming in an exemplary manner its popularity30. Since then, selfie’s labelling does not stop expanding, though play or by contamination of reflexive forms, to the most improbable cases31.

It has never been so alive. Scholarly research is dedicating conferences, books and articles to it. Launched in 2013 by an international group of Art professionals, the Museum Selfie Day initiative or the concept of #artselfie invites visitors to publish on social network sites under a designated hashtag, a selfie showing their relationship with the museum or to photograph themselves in front of a masterpiece32. Exhibitions and art works dedicated to the selfie are increasing and contribute in legitimizing this practice which acts as an ideal tool for mediation between popular culture and heritage, personal expression and contemporary art33.

23. Extraits du Tumblr Museum of selfies.
23. Extraits du Tumblr Museum of selfies.

During his visit to Canberra (Australia) in 2015, confronted by a crowd of admirers, Prince Harry was annoyed. When a young girl asked him to pose by her side, his Highness replied: «No, I hate selfies. Seriously, you should stop it. I know you are young, but selfies are bad. Just take a normal photograph».

Coming from the scion of the British Monarchy, this gibe made the press react. The Guardian’s art columnist seized the occasion to pronounce the end of selfies. Judging it depressing that contemporary culture has made of the sublime art of self-portrait a vulgar, collective farce, he claims the abandonment of this «idiotic travesty of the human image34».

This reaction can be understood. The intrusiveness of selfie, the closeness between the celebrity and his audience, the appropriation of his image are all elements that can cause embarrassment and unpleasantness. The final advice of Prince Harry establishes the seemingly appropriate distance. To take a «normal photograph» means: stay in your place, respect the unwritten rules that build a protective screen between the subject of attention and his admirers – sometimes materialized by barriers and guards. A world separates us, says the Prince: there are those who look at and those who are looked at. Photography is not there to contradict this distinction but to strengthen it.

But the answer of the selfie is that, from now on, it is the user who decides how to write the relationship to notoriety. Celebrity has changed: rather than being called to passively attend a show, as in the time of the Sun King, the audience slips within the frame and affirms its interest by playing as actors, then shares these images via its own social media. Today, which event would have the least interest if it wasn’t accompanied by these testimonies of public approval?

24. Evolution des formes de la célébrité (Cannes, 2012/2014).
24. Evolution des formes de la célébrité (Cannes, 2012/2014).

Well beyond an extension of the self-portrait, the selfie has become a symbol of a powerful movement of the autonomization of cultural practices, encouraged by the digital transition. It’s ability to define itself by its aesthetic and conditions of production enrolls it in the genealogy of great visual genres. Although the circulation of cultural models in the visual field have always respected the top-down approach, it has witnessed an exemplary reversal of this dynamic by introducing within the communication patterns of celebrities and world leaders a vernacular practice representative of the private sphere. Far from reducing its imprint, the moral condemnation of selfie has made it one of the emblems of connected practices, associated with political, existential, or epochal meaning. It can be hoped that this unique rise in the significance of an iconographic practice awakens interest in visual knowledge, he absence of which has been put to the fore by the selfie narrative.

Translated from French by Fatima Aziz.

  1. To avoid the biases linked to the word “self-portrait,” I propose to use instead the generic notion of self-photography (in French: auto-photographie), defined as an image showing the user of the camera. []
  2. Sarah Projansky, “Feminism and the Popular: Readings of Rape and Postfeminism in Thelma and Louise”, in coll., Watching Rape: Film and Television in Postfeminist Culture, New York University Press, 2001, p. 130-162. []
  3. Gisèle Freund, La Photographie en France au XIXe siècle (1936), rééd., Paris, Christian Bourgois, 2011, p. 11. []
  4. One of the most ancient device, the Autopoze is patented in 1902 in the USA. The Kodak self-timer is introduced in 1918. []
  5. Edmund Carpenter, Oh What a Blow That Phantom Gave Me!, New York, Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1972, p. 6 []
  6. Pierre Bourdieu (dir.), Un art moyen. Essai sur les usages sociaux de la photographie, Paris, Minuit, 1965, p. 62. []
  7. Jerry Saltz, “Art at Arm’s Length: A History of the Selfie”, Vulture, 26 janvier 2014. []
  8. Danah Boyd, Taken out of context. American teen sociality in networked publics, PhD dissertation, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2008. []
  9. Edgar Gomez Cruz, Christina Miguel, “I’m doing this right now and it’s for you. The role of images in sexual ambient intimacy”, in Marsha Berry, Max Schleser, Mobile Media Making in an Age of Smartphones, New York, Palgrave Macmillan, 2014, p. 139-148. []
  10. Coll., “2014 celebrity photo hack”, Wikipedia, consulté le 25 avril 2015, . []
  11. John Paul Titlow, “#Me: Instagram Narcissism And The Scourge Of The Selfie”, ReadWriteWeb, 31 janvier 2013; Christine Erickson, “The social psychology of the selfie”, Mashable, 15 février 2013. []
  12. Kate Losse, “The return of the selfie”, The New Yorker, 31 mai 2013; Elizabeth Day, « How selfies became a global phenomenon”, The Guardian, 14 juillet 2013; Alexandra Sifferlin, “Why Selfies Matter”, Time, 6 septembre 2013. []
  13. Lev Manovich, Alise Tifentale, “Selfiecity. Exploring Photography and Self-Fashioning in Social Media”, in David M. Berry, Michael Dieter, Postdigital Aesthetics. Art, Computation and Design, New York, Palgrave Macmillan, 2015. []
  14. Shona Sibary, “Selfie photo craze. The pouting pictures I fear my daughter will end up regretting”, Daily Mail, 26 mars 2013; Bim Adewunmi, “The rise and rise of the selfie”, The Guardian, 2 avril 2013. []
  15. Dave Stopera, “The 32 Absolute Best Selfies Of All Time”, Buzzfeed, 15 janvier 2013. []
  16. Christopher Lasch, The Culture of Narcissism: American Life in an Age of Diminishing Expectations, New York: Norton; Revised edition (May 1991). []
  17. Douglas Quenqua, “Seing Narcissists Everywhere”, New York Times, 5 août 2013. []
  18. Jean M. Twenge, Generation Me. Why Today’s Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled, and More Miserable Than Ever, New York, Free Press, 2006; Jean M. Twenge, W. Keith Campbell (dir.), The Narcissism Epidemic. Living in the Age of Entitlement, New York, Free Press, 2009. []
  19. Kali H. Trzesniewski, M. Brent Donnellan, Richard W. Robins, “Do today’s young people really think they are so extraordinary ? An examination of secular changes in narcissism and self-enhancement”, Psychological Science, n° 19, 2008, p. 181-188. []
  20. Jeffrey J. Arnett, “The Evidence for Generation We and against Generation Me”, Emerging Adulthood, mars 2013, vol. 1, n° 1, p. 5-10. []
  21. Erving Goffman, The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, Anchor Books, 1959. []
  22. The first mention of the term ‘selfie’ is dated in September 2002 by lexicographers, on an Australian forum, but they note that its use grew remarkably during 2013: Anon., “The Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year 2013 is…”, OxfordWords blog, 18th November 2013. []
  23. Stanley Cohen, Folk Devils and Moral Panics. The Creation of the Mods and Rockers (1972), nouvelle éd., Londres, Routledge, 2009; Danah Boyd, “Are sexual predators lurking everywhere?”, It’s Complicated. The social lives of networked teens, New Haven, Londres, Yale University Press, 2014, p. 100-127. []
  24. Errol Morris, “The Most Curious Thing”, Believing is Seeing. Observations on the mysteries of photography, New York, Penguin Press, 2011, p. 97-119. []
  25. Ruth Margalit, “Should Auschwitz be a site for selfies?”, The New Yorker, 26 juin, 2014. []
  26. A. L., “Le selfie d’Obama fait la une en Grande-Bretagne”, 20 Minutes, 11 décembre 2013. []
  27. Sherry Turkle, “The Documented Life“, The New York Times, 15 décembre 2013. []
  28. Michel de Certeau, L’Invention du quotidien, (1) Arts de faire (1980), Paris, Gallimard, 1990. []
  29. Jean-Paul Brighelli, “Rousseau et le selfie. Le smartphone, néant de la conscience”,, 23 avril 2015. []
  30. Alexis Ferenczi, “Oscars 2014: un selfie d’Ellen DeGeneres pendant la cérémonie bat des records sur Twitter”,, 3 mars 2014. []
  31. Aude Deraedt, “Selfie du macaque: les singes sont des photographes comme les autres”, Libération, 7 août 2014. []
  32. Laurence Allard, “Selfie, un genre en soi. Ou pourquoi il ne faut pas prendre les selfies pour des profile pictures”, MobActu, 14 janvier 2014; Mairin Kerr, “The value of Museum Selfies« , EdGital, 29 août 2014. []
  33. Laurence Allard, Laurent Creton, Roger Odin (dir.), Téléphonie mobile et création, Paris, Armand Colin, 2014. []
  34. Jonathan Jones, “RIP the selfie: when Prince Harry calls time on a craze, you know it’s well and truly dead”, The Guardian, 7 avril 2015. []

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