I wasn’t planning to publish my latest (and indeed last!) essay as part of my degree, but I just got my feedback, which was mostly positive and came with a surprisingly good grade, and a few of you seem to be interested enough, so here it is. Until today no-one else had read it, not even my wife. Click on the image to read it, if you want to. But not if you don’t.
This was the feedback from th two marking tutors:
You have chosen a fundamental subject to explore and do so with flair and imagination and most importantly with some critical skill, showing that the rise of the selfie is very much a contested area.
Though you state that as a new subject finding academic sources are more of a challenge, you managed however to marshal a range of relevant academic sources to really back up your statements, crucially showing some important areas of debate. Indeed – contrary to your feedback, your lack of a firm conclusion is appropriate here. I feel you do manage to explore a key idea in the difference between the idea of photograph as record and communication.
I didn’t mind the way that you strayed a little into the realms of social science in researching some reasons of why people made selfies, indeed an interdisciplinary approach can be fruitful, especially if other academic research on the area is not forthcoming. There are ethical considerations in interviewing in this way and you should really have shown how you adhered to UH guidelines on this kind of research– I feel some form of ethics statement and method should have been in your appendices, however by keeping everything anonymous you have avoided a major issue here. Good that you are aware of the anecdotal nature of this research and its limitations.
One area you could have explored in more detail was the relation of the selfie to self-portrait in terms of art and its auratic nature. Walter Benjamin’s analysis might have been fruitful here in unpicking the Cornelius image from the modern selfie. It could also have thrown light on the ‘statue selfies’ and the Samsung advert.
Overall a mature and informative piece of work that I enjoyed reading very much.
You have produced an excellent essay exploring the phenomenon of the ‘selfie’. Although admittedly this is not a study prompted by a thesis to be proven or disproven through research, there is no sense of ‘aimless meander’ in the way in which you have framed your research questions (loose and exploratory as they are), and pursued them through research and argument.
Your research questions are clear and stated from the outset. They are then explored through competent research using a wide range of sources (scholarly papers, newspaper articles, even personal conversations). That research is deployed mostly in a judicious manner throughout the essay. A criticism would be to your use of conversations and unstructured interviews, which produced results that even you acknowledge as ‘anecdotal’. If the testimonials have only anecdotal value, then why use them? I ask this question because any material included in an essay will have the effect of contributing to possible meanings and reception of that essay, despite any disclaimers or warnings that such material needs to be bracketed.
That criticism aside, this is, I repeat, an excellent essay that shows you engaging with research, criticism, and evaluation in a very mature and considered way.”