‘Coding for Abortion Access’ Analysis

‘Coding for Abortion Access’ (Weigel 2017) was published on the 5th April by journalist Moira Weigel working for The New Yorker (TNY). This publication, as described in their ‘About’ page (2017), reports on matters of politics, popular culture, science and technology, business and the arts to name a few. Founded in 1925, the magazine is still available in weekly print format but, as evident by their ‘video’ and ‘audio’ sections, TNY has seamlessly adapted to the digital renaissance. This no doubt helped their online readership grow 80% in 2011 -2012 (Sasseen, Matsa & Mitchell 2013). PEW Research Centre (2014) indicates that the magazine typically attracts an affluent, primarily female (53%) and left-leaning readership (77% identified as ‘left-of-centre’).

This apparent demographic is reflected by the article in question. Weigel recounts a recent ‘hackathon’ organised and ran by women with the goal of creating software that engages with ‘the issue of reproductive rights’ and coding’s ability to facilitate ‘subversions and workarounds’ to increasingly restrictive state and federal legislation. As such, the article is clearly aimed at a female audience who are tech savvy, have an adequate knowledge of computing jargon, and understand the concept of a ‘hackathon’ as the article doesn’t readily explain what this is.

While the piece does make references to the controversial activity of hacking, it doesn’t grapple with this on an ethical level. Computer science is, more or less, standard textbook science but the article frames the developers as more contentious ‘hackers’ instead. Furthermore, the ‘hacking’ in question revolves around the controversial topic of abortion, with the author taking a stance that’s aligned with the target audience.

Weigel writes in a distinctly third person style which largely relies on quotes from the ‘hackers’ present at the event to frame any politically charged statements, which they refer to as ‘the language of reproductive justice’, suggesting a moral high-ground. This doesn’t, however, prevent her from framing the topic. Weigel remarks that the challenges of accessing abortion services are often ‘insurmountable’, and subtly frames ‘pro-lifers’ as unapologetically obstructing otherwise helpless women.

The subject of the article is of a female-centred ‘hackathon’, which can be defined as ‘a gathering where programmers collaboratively code in an extreme manner over a short period of time’. Generally held to tackle a specific problem, often with similarly philanthropic intentions, these events are a fantastic example of computer science working to benefit society. As Weigel states, the tech industry demonstrates that ‘… even the most intractable problems can be solved if only you break them down into the right set of engineering decisions’ which reflects the programmers’ ‘can-do optimism’. To further commend the event, Weigel reminds us frequently that everyone in attendance were volunteers, most of them women, who worked efficiently as teams under the banner of ‘collaboration, not competition’.

Weigel argues that ‘the tech industry is not known for attending to the needs of women’, but doesn’t offer any examples of this imbalance. Rather, she laments the historic context of abortion and it’s relatively recent (‘1860’s’) criminalization. After a brief account of past cultural practices, she alludes to technology as a phenomenal opportunity to return power and decision to women who ‘once gathered to pass around herbs and vines and illegal diaphragms and D.I.Y. abortion kits’. Now, ‘code’ provides the means to alter the paradigm and re-establish the network of women ‘who share the knowledge they need’ in an environment reminiscent of ‘older feminist gatherings’.

The article continuously praises the wonderful opportunities offered by technology and hackathons, citing the development of ‘bots to search government sites’ for relevant legislation, programs to ‘process… screening clinic volunteers by aggregating and scanning their social media’, and using data mapping tools to ‘identify volunteers who might be able to help women… get a ride to a clinic’ or look after children among other things. As a science communicator, Weigel helps parse their projects for her audience but curiously leaves terms like ‘GitHub’, ‘Slack’ and ‘Ruby on Rails’ to be individually researched.

Weigel’s article is largely devoid of anything that would suggest a passive or explicit belief in there being a literacy deficit with her readership. As aforementioned, there is plenty of terminology in use that someone who is unfamiliar with computing may not understand, but the author is well aware of her audience. In fact, there’s evidence that the article assumes the public has a thorough understanding of this field of science with unexplained quotes like ‘she’s a dev-ops engineer’. Weigel is quick to point out that many of the participants at the hackathon were graduates of various ‘get-girls-to-code boot camps’, many of whom brought along their children. One woman in particular named Lillie was ‘eight months pregnant… [and] had brought yoga blocks’.

Crucially, Weigel reminds us that these women are not all credentialed, traditional professionals that engage in ‘boundary work’. Instead, they occupy an interesting position as individuals who’ve developed an interest in the field of computer science and programming in their own time. As such, they’ve functionally removed the barrier between the ‘public’ and the elusive ‘scientist’. They’ve become mobilised citizen experts who communicate with a largely ‘contingent repertoire’ as Gilbert & Mulkay (1984) would define (Mercer p.12, 2017). As such, these women have circumvented the need for technology companies that have previously ignored the ‘needs of women’. To that effect, a Google representative was concerned that the hackathon was too ‘politically biased’ and so they couldn’t send a representative.

The article itself functions almost as the antithesis of the ‘literacy deficit’ model: grassroots programming workshops demonstrate that previously ‘scientifically unwitting’ women have taken these challenges upon themselves to accomplish, effectively ignoring any theoretical ‘literacy deficit’. The message being communicated states that regular people are very much capable of tangling with the intimacies of science and technology without needing formal training.

Weigel intersperses with her narrative various background histories on abortion and its legality in the States over time. These are crucial cultural narratives that are surely familiar to many of the feminist programmers at the event, and are important historical landmarks in their own right. Narratives like the reference to the Roe vs. Wade decision by the United States Supreme Court  in 1973 which ‘invalidated any state laws that prohibited first trimester abortions’ (Landmark Cases, 2017). Instead, ‘opponents have focused on making abortion more difficult to obtain’ which these ‘hackers’ are directly pushing back against.

Similarly, Weigel brings what could be considered as a developing cultural narrative; the new Trump administration and his pledge to ‘appoint Supreme Court justices who would overturn Roe v. Wade’. In line with those beliefs, Trump’s first week in office saw him sign an order barring the government from ‘funding international organizations that so much as provide information on abortion’ not to mention new bills to ‘require women to provide written permission from the foetus’ father’. Weigel also informs of ‘criminalizing abortion starting as early as six weeks’. These are contemporary actions that will surely become part of the future cultural narrative for feminist groups like those attending the hackathon.

Weigel regrets that the ‘attitudes driving these policies cannot be’ metaphorically ‘…programmed away.’ Similarly, even the concept of a ‘hackathon’ is metaphorically uncertain. The attendees aren’t so much ‘hackers’, or the event a ‘hackathon’, as they’re simply ‘programmers’. They aren’t unlawfully breaking into or modifying existing systems, so has the term ‘hacker’ been itself (ironically) hijacked to mean ‘rebellious’ programming?

Shireen Whitaker, a master’s student in computer science and so not an amateur enthusiast, spent her time ‘researching antis’; an abbreviation this community is clearly familiar with, for anti-abortionists who try to infiltrate abortion clinics. Whitaker’s credentials reflect hackathons propensity for collaboration; participants undertake whatever task is needed regardless of their professional standing.

Undeniably, the article has a political angle intrinsic to the subject matter. Indeed, one participant acknowledged this when two teams unknowingly developed similar applications, exclaiming “No political hackathon would be complete without duplicate effort!” The article is unapologetically political, with reference to attendees’ ‘RESIST’ t-shirts, the presence of vulgar ethical opposition; “We got our first bloody fetus on the hashtag!”, and multiple references to government opposition. These views aren’t unexpected by the audience of TNY however, aligning with their readers’ demographic.

Overall, this article by Moira Weigel from The New Yorker is an effective piece of science communication. As a narrative account of the event, Weigel’s goal was two-fold. Firstly, to document a hackathon that demonstrated the benefits of programming to society and secondly, to tell the story of women who were once members of the supposed ‘ignorant public’ that unexpectedly became technologists. The communicator was acutely aware of her audience and thus didn’t need to overly simplify the message. While there is an underlying political tone, the technical information is delivered effectively with direct quotes from the technical ‘professionals’. Conversely, with the format of a narrative account the author isn’t required to explain the intricacies of the software design that she’s reporting on which significantly lowers her burden of responsibility as a science communicator.

Reference list:

Gilbert, GN & Mulkay, M 1984, Opening Pandora’s Box: A Sociological Analysis of Scientists’ Discourse, Cambridge University Press, London

Roe v. Wade 2017, Landmark Cases of the U.S. Supreme Court, viewed 8 April 2017,
http://landmarkcases.org/en/landmark/cases/roe_v_wade#Tab=Overview

Mercer, D 2017, ‘An Introduction to Some Frequently Used Terms and Concepts in Science Communication’ PowerPoint slides, STS 286, delivered 6 March 2017

About Us 2017, New Yorker, viewed 8 April 2017,
http://www.newyorker.com/about/us/?src=tny-footer

Pew Research Center 2014, Where News Audiences Fit on the Political Spectrum, viewed 9 April 2017,
http://www.journalism.org/interactives/media-polarization/outlet/new-yorker/

Sasseen, J & Matsa, KE & Mitchell, M 2013, ‘News Magazines: By the Numbers’, Pew Research Center, viewed 9 April 2017
http://www.stateofthemedia.org/2013/news-magazines-embracing-their-digital-future/

Weigel, M 2017, ‘Coding for Abortion Access’, New Yorker, viewed 5 April,
http://www.newyorker.com/tech/elements/coding-for-abortion-access

Advertisements

Ewe, this food has animal producks in it?

Bet you feel sheepish that you missed that pun, huh? There are actually two, but you probably gnu gnat. Whatever; I had a gaggle giggle.

11817180_1669203393310844_3724928038285323670_n

What am I doing with my life

While looking at the different case studies this week, including Blackfish (2013), we focused explicitly on tangible animals and their presence and framing within our lives. We do this of course in a number of different ways. From viewing them as marginalized ‘monuments of their own disappearance’ in zoos, by anthropomorphize them in all types of media, and to their supposedly natural depiction in wildlife documentaries, we still fundamentally view them as beings with ‘full agency’. Beings that, in some circumstances, are fully capable of consciousness.

But then we looked at some products that were advertised in a way that desired to distance itself from the animal that it comes from. For example, most, if not all, packets of bacon won’t have an image of a pig on it because there’s the average consumer doesn’t want to be reminded that they’re eating an animal, presumably because there’s a minority of people who would then put that packet back in the refrigerator.

Good grief that looks appetizing… Via TESCO

But what we might be less aware of, is how many food products do contain animal products in them without our knowing. PETA has an extensive list of all the types of animal products, and byproducts, that are used as ingredients. Not only are animals rendered as ‘absolutely marginal’ in captivity, but they can absolutely be rendered as margarine. Well, their oils and fats can be anyway. Beyond just foods, animal products can be present in the most unexpected of places, prompting outrage from people who morally object to using animal products.

Mark Carney Makes First Transaction With New Polymer Fiver

New £5 note note made with a hint of animal tallow — Via Gizmodo

The Bank of England confirmed that new £5, some of which are worth 20x that, not only are stronger and feature improvements to help resist dirt for longer, but also have trace amounts of animal fat to reportedly ‘help the currency slip into machines easier’. This presents an ethical issue for many people who strive to avoid using products that have animal products in them. This is considered so reprehensible that more than 135,000 people have petitioned to have the state reconsider the use of tallow in the note (which was scheduled to influence production of £10 and £20 notes too), with some effect. Production of ‘the £20 note has been halted because of the issues that have been raised’ by those who petitioned, and 9 hours from the time of publishing this piece the Bank of England is now considering using palm or coconut oil instead. This, of course, ‘proved controversial with conservation groups’ as palm oil production ‘was responsible for 8% of the world’s deforestation between 1990 and 2008’, which in turn contributed to ‘the near-extinction of the orangutan.’

2c7b79773547e582e49e97dc828c5812

You just can’t win can you? — Via Pinterest

Business Insider compiled a list of other products that surprisingly feature animal products in them. Among them, plastic bags stuck out to me as particularly unsuspecting. Plastic bags, for example, ‘contain chemicals often referred to as “slip agents” derived from the stearic acid in animal fat’ which prevent them sticking to metal during production, and one another afterwards. The process of refining both white and brown sugar can use bone char from animal ashes (giving white sugar in particular it’s ‘whiteness’). Condoms, nail-polish, cigarettes, crayons, and even some perfumes all represent products that I wouldn’t expect to include animal matter in them. But here we are. I’ll give sugar a pass though, being one of my key components of life.

My glamorous lifestyle that’s contingent on condoms, nail-polish and cigarettes might require some altering though.

Amazon and Automation: What does this mean for our consumers, retailers, and workers?

With months of speculation, Amazon finally seems poised to officially enter the Australian marketplace with a ‘Amazon insider’ telling The New Daily  that they’ll have arrived ‘no later than 2017 to early 2018’. This aligns with other sources such as Business Insider noting on January 17th that Amazon had ‘more than 100 job vacancies listed for Australia’, one of these roles detailed hinted at ‘revolutionising… the grocery shopping experience’ to include fresh food delivery in the roll-out. Amazon also surprise launched their ‘Prime Video’ service in November 2016 to compete with the already cut-throat local competition.

So it seems Amazon’s arrival is near, but what does this mean for retailers? Watermark Funds Investment chief investment officer Justin Braitling was quoted stating their plan is to undercut the market by ‘around 30%’, with their intentions to effectively ‘destroy’ the status quo. Looking at a report by Credit Suisse reflects these concerns, envisaging JB HIFI could see up to a 33% decline in profits, with Myer topping even that at 55%.

Despite these concerns, others such as Danny Ing, the founder of inventory management software ‘Cin7’, see Amazon’s marketplace as a miraculous opportunity for small businesses in particular who can now ‘open up a massive new market’ and become part of a ‘globalised cottage industry’. This means that Amazon’s global 300 million users will now be accessible and will facilitate rapid growth for choice Australian sellers.

amazon-echo
Amazon’s ‘Echo’ combined with ‘Alexa’ app automates your home and acts as a personal assistant.

With promise of creating jobs and expanding the marketplace for consumers, it’s important to remember that ‘the workers they are hiring aren’t the same ones being laid off’, so says Harvard economics professor Lawrence Katz. In the US we can see that department stores have felt the impact of online retailers, letting go ‘thousands of staff in recent months’. While businesses and employees around Australia haven’t been similarly affected yet, this will surely change soon with the ‘incredible efficiency of Amazon’s distribution system’ which is unparalleled locally.

Gerry Harvey, bless the man, boldly states that ‘If they’ve [Amazon] got a cheaper price we will match that price, and we’ll give them the service, delivery and after sales service and they will be a lot happier than if they dealt with Amazon.’ Professor Mark Ritson rebukes those claims however, noting that regardless of what Gerry says ‘in front of the cameras’, it will be different behind closed doors. ‘He wants to communicate that Harvey Norman will match Amazon penny for penny for the consumers, but the reality is you can’t do that, and he knows it.’

161206-amazon-go-job-killer-feature
Amazon Go, currently only available to Amazon employees in Seattle, allows customers to pick out their food and it will automatically bill you for it when you walk out the door.

Woolworths, taking a more pragmatic approach, has moved its in-house technology infrastructure over to Microsoft’s Azure network to ensure scalability and reliability for particularly busy periods. Understandably, they didn’t opt for Amazon’s own cloud service, Amazon Web Services.

In my preliminary research, I’ve seen two common concerns with Amazon’s entrance according to internet commentators. Firstly, that Amazon must have a solution to Australia Post’s woeful delivery times. A commenter using the handle ‘NegativeZero’ attributes the success of the free ‘Prime’ delivery system to the ‘godawful minimum wage… (so they can have more drivers doing deliveries)’ combined with the postal services in the US being ‘miles ahead of Australia Post in both cost and service quality’. Having both a comparably high minimum wage, and a lacking postal service, presents a barrier for Amazon.

AmazonFreshtruck
Amazon Fresh provides same-day delivery for groceries in US cities

Secondly, and the issue I’ll be most focusing on for my research report, is concern for the jobs of those affected by the automation of process like warehouse logistics, order fulfillment and distribution.

With unimaginable working conditions, and the cost to solve them, we can see why Amazon would be happy moving towards automation. The NY Times cites of Amazon’s efficiency; ‘they don’t use as much labor’. The profit of these ‘superstar firms’ is therefor ‘split among fewer workers.’

In Creating the Global Shopping Mall: The Case of Amazon, Voigt notes Amazon’s acquisition of Kiva Systems (now Amazon Robotics) which manufactured storage robot to improve the fulfillment process (p. 73, 2016). And, while Amazon’s warehouses aren’t devoid of human workers yet, ‘Amazon continues its work on removing the human element from this too’, according to David D’Souza of CIPD London.

image-2._CR0,8,1340,762_
Amazon Prime Air‘s ’30 minutes or less’ delivery system is currently is trialing in the US, UK, Austria and Israel.

Co-Founder of Kiva Systems, Raffaeollo D’Andrea, wrote in A Revolution in the Warehouse: A Retrospective on Kiva Systems and the Grand Challenges Ahead that the ‘average mean time between failure of mobile robots at the time was 8 hours’. With a 1000 strong robotic workforce, there would be 3000 incidents every day. Using innovative but cheap sensors, GPS systems, and clever algorithms vastly increased productivity (p. 638, 2012). D’Andrea believes that ‘robotics and automation cannot only create new markets, but also revolutionize established ones’ as evidenced by Amazon’s domination ‘stateside’, and possibly soon in Australia.

 


This was a quick, preliminary look at sources of interest for my research project into the automation of the work-force, using Amazon’s Australian debut in particular as a case study. In the coming weeks I’ll be refining my inquiry, and definitely utilising more academic and industry sources.

Does societal ‘bigotry of low expectations’ exist?

Growing up in regional NSW, and living in a small town that regularly necessitated driving through the infamous East Nowra public housing district, I was always peripherally aware of the poor and downtrodden in my local community. But whilst listening to the BCM310 lecture on ‘Suffering, empathy and poverty porn’ however, the notion that suffering can be ‘visible but not seen‘ jumped out at me as particularly poignant; it struck me that I’d never truly considered what it would be like to live in such a publicly scrutinized community, and what effect that would have on my own self-esteem and personal outlook.

32cd2c84d79f6d6a1d88217fa77c4484

Visible, but not seen — Via Tumblr

Indeed, the suggestion that suffering can be ‘visible but not seen’ is reflective of many contemporary issues that are acknowledged, but kept at arms length. We can plainly see the same apathetic behavior with the almost cyclical perceptions of climate change, and the seemingly indefinite detention of refugees on the Manu and Nauru islands. Despite strong public opinion as polled by Roy Morgan Research expressing ‘overwhelming concern and response to the human suffering’, there’s been no suggestion as to when their extended incarceration will finally end.

1487738465439

Afghan refugee on Nauru — Via SMH

Thinking back, then, to this local community of East Nowra, I was curious as to the kind of effects that a community suffers when they’re looked down upon be those around them. Specifically, I wondered if an investigation into evidence of a perpetuating, viscous cycle involving criminality and drug use ties with occupants of public housing estates might be an interesting topic for my final project. Is this assumption an unfair generalization held by those privileged enough to not need public housing? Is there evidence to suggest that ongoing explicit and implicit condemnation of ‘the other’ groups and communities reinforces these ideals and behaviors?

As you can explore above, East Nowra (which features a street called, and I still can’t believe this is real, ‘Vendetta St‘) is unsurprisingly easy to draw assumptions from. Moving past these impressions though, lets have a brief look at research into the relationship between those in the bottom socioeconomic bracket and their conformation to (or success despite) society’s lower expectations.

In 1961, Oscar Lewis coined a phrase to help gather his findings in poor communities; the ‘culture of poverty’ which surmised his ethnographic studies in small Mexican communities. Lewis speculated that poverty stricken people ‘share a consistent and observable “culture”‘ and believed he could extrapolate and universally apply this concept. Since then however, the existence of such a culture has been thoroughly debunked. ‘Differences in values and behaviors among poor people are just as great as those between poor and wealthy people’ writes Paul Gorski of Hamline University.

Despite this, many false truths have ‘crept into mainstream thinking’ such as the view that poor people are unmotivated, have poor work ethics, are un-involved in their children’s learning, and they ‘tend to abuse drugs and alcohol’, all of which Gorski rebukes. Over 83% of poor families have an employed adult, and Gorski argues that schools are, in fact, to blame with the perceived lack of involvement as they don’t take the working conditions of these families into account. Evidently, one could make the case that ‘schools … do not value the involvement of poor families as much as they value the involvement of other families’ due to this. Similarly, drug use is ‘equally distributed’ among all societal classes. In fact, consumption of alcohol among upper-middle class, white students is ‘significantly higher … than among poor black high school students.’ Additionally, the Australian Institute of Criminology found that public housing itself wasn’t an ‘important factor’ in whether an individual uses drugs.

Gorksi also expresses concern reminiscent of what Michael Gerson described as the ‘soft bigotry of low expectations‘ which has seen wide recognition even among Australians researchers in educational settings. The phrase originally referenced the education system setting low bars for minority students and that being a crucial failing to their education, with Noel Pearson of The Australian stating that ‘high-expectations schooling is ultimately about high-quality teaching.’ Gorksi blames the ‘deficit theory’ for ‘suggesting that poor people are poor because of their own moral and intellectual deficiencies’, resulting in a view of the ‘undeserving poor’ as Herbert Gans coined. In practicality, ‘poor students are more likely to attend schools that have less funding’ which means larger class sizes, ‘a less-rigorous curriculum’ and less experienced/qualified teachers among other factors.

89068-007025

Aboriginal classroom — Via Department of Education

Could it not, therefor, be suggested that this concept of ‘soft bigotry of low expectations’ extends beyond just the educational realm and impacts many facets of impoverished life?

 

Selfies in the Mediasphere

While researching what the broader academic community postulates and proposes of selfies, I found these words encapsulated the debate nicely: ‘The term—and more so the practice(s)—remain fundamentally ambiguous, fraught, and caught in a stubborn and morally loaded hype cycle.’ (Baym & Senft, p.1588, 2015)

So, much like the debate over whether science fiction has a negative effect on the public understanding of science (shameless plug), we’re unsure as to whether selfies are a pox on our society. Baym & Senft state that there is in fact not ‘a single peer-reviewed piece of scientific literature that convincingly demonstrates that selfie production and mental illness are correlated’ (p.1590) despite the bastion of high-brow, journalistic gold ‘Adweek’ claiming otherwise.

Regardless, we see the almost inevitable ‘moral panic’ phenomenon as described by Cohen when a new ‘media form or practice is adopted by young people, women, or people of color’ (Baym & Senft p.1592). Approaching selfies as a tool, we begin to see their worth beyond expressions of individuals (whether narcissistic or not).

As argued by Koliska & Roberts, selfies can be taken not for just personal indulgence, but as a statement to say “I witnessed this take place” and provide a different, decidedly personable perspective on events which risk losing their important human element, such as a civil rights protest. Koliska & Roberts mention selfies taken during the military coup in Bangkok (2015) reminds us that real, human lives are being disheveled due to otherwise faceless events.

140523153431-thai-coup-6-horizontal-gallery

A member of the press takes ‘soldier selfie’ on May 22 2014 – Source: CNN

 

Therefor, the subject of the photo can be beyond the ‘self’, but a form of citizen journalism acting more like documentation. If you were to change the circumstances to that of a ‘Black Lives Matter’ march, for example, interfacing with that selfie communicates what Senft (2008) refers to as “networked reflective solidarity”. This allows somebody on social media to feel ‘closer’ to that person and establish a sympathetic (if not empathetic) response.

Jenna Brager, in her essay ‘The Selfie and the Other: Consuming Viral Tragedy and Social Media (After)lives’, is concerned that the use publication of selfies posthumously often considers the subject as not any kind of ‘hero’ or influence, but simply as a ‘victim’. The juxtaposition of the presumably happy-looking individual in the selfie with the news of their death, I agree, very easily paints a saddening reality (the pessimistic among us might dare to call it lazy or exploitative journalism!).

Similarly, Brager points to an example of a selfie taken before a car-bombing in Beirut which killed, among others, notable political figure Mohammad Chatah. Despite this, the Twitter campaign #notamartyr focused on a teenager in the selfie not Chatah, ‘presumably because as a political figure, he constituted an ‘appropriate’ target of violence’.

Just as how selfies can help us identify with, humanise, and connect to individuals in extraordinary circumstances, they can unfortunately do the opposite and instead distract from the meaningful point of a story via the (petty and ultimately trivial) differences of ‘the other’. Brager notes that selfies of Lebanese teenagers Malak Zahwe and Maria Jawhari were circulated after their deaths, but were met with ‘minimal Western interest’ due to their living in ‘Dahieh’, known as a stronghold for terrorist organization ‘Hezbollah’. Brager exclaims their framing ‘by association, as members of a terrorist organization, rather than ‘innocent’ civilian victims” [who] wore hijab—“a visible marker of otherness.’ (p. 1665)

w460

‘This is the third bombing that I escape, I don’t know if the fourth will kill me’ – Maria Jawhari’s Facebook post Source: Naharnet 

 


 

Going through high-school, I was surrounded by people with iPod’s and smartphones ‘who took selfies’, as I would have framed them in my mind. Having not bought a smartphone until my senior years, I viewed them as (albeit harmlessly) self-indulgent and, perhaps a bit narcissistic.

But as an adult, living in the digital age where we’re more and more unwittingly documenting our whole lives via website cookies, digital receipts and location tracking etc., I feel like selfies are something that’s in your control and uniquely, definitively you. Yes, it’s likely ineradicable like many of your digital remnants, but by God, you are expressing yourself as a goddamn human being at this moment in time, and that can stand out among your otherwise boring, yet unspeakably, terrifyingly, inexplicably all-encompassing metadata.


 

References

Senft, T & Baym N 2015, ‘What Does the Selfie Say? Investigating a Global Phenomenon’, International Journal of Communication, vol. 9 no.19, pp. 1588–1606

Koliska, M & Roberts, J 2015 ‘Selfies| Selfies: Witnessing and Participatory Journalism with a Point of View’, International Journal of Communication, vol. 9 no.19, pp. 1672–1685

Brager, J 2015, ‘The Selfie and the Other: Consuming Viral Tragedy and Social Media (After)lives’, International Journal of Communication, vol. 9 no.19, pp.1660–1671