Selfies and Purikura as Affective, Aesthetic Labor

  • Mette Sandbye
Chapter

Abstract

Is the selfie a sign of conformity, narcissism, and adjustment to a group mentality and to a machine-produced, highly stereotypical imagery circulating in contemporary consumer society? Or is it the opposite: Can we speak of a free, creative, even transgressive play with identity, gender, sexuality, and the body? These dual, opposing approaches seem to characterize much of the discussion on the phenomenon. The aim of this chapter is to bridge this duality or, rather, approach the issue from a different angle, by looking at the selfie as—using a phrase by Raymond Williams—a “structure of feeling.” The selfie is a multiple, not fully demarcabable term that therefore needs to be both contextualized and studied in its specific subgenres. By narrowing the focus to a precursor and a subgenre of the selfie, the Japanese purikura, the chapter explores the social value of this kind of photography and the kind of emotional affect it produces. In doing so it draws on thinkers in recent Postfeminist as well as Affect Studies who have turned their interest toward “positive affect and the politics of good feeling,” as Sara Ahmed has put it. Therefore, the chapter looks at the selfie as an aesthetic expression of affect and argues for an open and dialectical approach to popular photography genres such as the selfie with regard to both the stereotypical and the liberating aspects of vernacular self-portraiture. The main argument posits the selfie—via its sub- or sister category, purikura—as a form of productive, affective, aesthetic labor or performative world making in today’s postmodern, capitalist, high-tech-dominated consumer society.

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mette Sandbye
    • 1
  1. 1.University of CopenhagenCopenhagenDenmark

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