Week Two: Branding & Celebrity


This week, we will investigate selfies and selfie culture in relation to branding, celebrity, micro-celebrity, and consumer culture theory. The following sections will lay out some key theoretical points, the assigned readings on theory and ethnography, and some case studies that will allow you to think through the concepts discussed. The remaining sections are instructions to your three assignments for this week, namely, an image production and praxis assignment, a discussion question, and a prompt for your reflection essay.


This week, we will look at the impact on individuals of the large audiences made possible by social media technologies. In other words, when average people can potentially command audiences previously only available to politicians or celebrities, how does that affect subjectivity, identity presentation, and social interaction? We will begin with Theresa Senft’s theory of “micro-celebrity,” and how the celebrity subject, or the corporate brand, becomes a model for certain types of online interaction. Marwick and boyd further claim that how people imagine their audience online affects how they choose to edit and present themselves. Using the celebrity selfie as an object to think with, we will examine the idea of the “edited self” and how both celebrities and “regular people” draw from consumer culture and advertising to present themselves online.



Senft, Theresa (2013) Microcelebrity and the Branded Self. http://www.academia.edu/3775110/Micro-celebrity_and_the_Branded_Self

Marwick, A. and boyd, d. (2011). “I Tweet Honestly, I Tweet Passionately: Twitter Users, Context Collapse, and the Imagined Audience.” New Media and Society 13(1): 114-133 http://www.tiara.org/blog/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/marwick_boyd_twitter_nms.pdf


Abidin, C. (2014, in press) ‘#In$tagLam: Instagram as a repository of taste, a brimming marketplace, a war of eyeballs’ in Mobile Media Making in the Age of Smartphones, Marsha Berry and Max Schleser (eds), Palgrave Pivot. <Abstract | Book>

Manning, Paul (2010) ‘The Semiotics of Brand’ Annual Review of Anthropology 39: 33-49

Marshall, P David (2010) ‘The Specular Economy’ Society 47(6): 498-502

Marwick, A. (2014, in press). “Instafame: Luxury Selfies in the Attention Economy.” Public Culture, Winter.


The New Paper (2014) Spore blogger and singer undergo 20k plastic surgery to look perfect <http://yourhealth.asiaone.com/content/spore-blogger-and-singer-undergo-20k-plastic-surgery-look-perfect>

Shagen-egao celebrity memes (2014) <http://newhive.com/notsaved/shagen-egao>

yourselfieideaisnotoriginal.tumblr (2014) <http://yourselfieideaisnotoriginal.tumblr.com/>


Post your best attempt at a “celebrity selfie” on Flickr. Post the original selfie or the selfie that inspired your attempt alongside yours for comparison – remember to link back/attribute to the source (we want to lift/quote ethically). Compare and contrast the two selfies.

Record your thought process and negotiation of the “celebrity selfie” attempt and post this up on the site as well. Why did you choose this particular shot/celebrity to emulate? How did you mimic your “celebrity selfie” after theirs? Did you move to a specific location IRL, attempt to adorn yourself differently, or adopt the use of particular filters? How else did you navigate the lighting, angling, background, framing, and posturing?

What makes a “celebrity selfie” a million-dollar shot? Or in this case, a ‘million-like’ shot? Does the celebrity you have emulated have a particular style or genre of selfies that is distinctive or their trademark?


Read these two articles from “traditional” celebrities and their discussion of selfies:

How do their philosophies and theories contradict or agree with those found in the academic readings?


Choose an Instagram user with more than 10,000 followers. This should not be a “celebrity” in the traditional sense (use your best judgment), anyone on this list of the Top 100 Instagram users (scroll down: http://websta.me/hot/), or a group/theme account (like http://instagram.com/instabraid or http://instagram.com/everydayimcheerleading). Ideally, you’re looking for a “regular person” who posts pictures of themselves, their lives, and so forth.

Describe the account. What types of pictures does the person post? (Selfies, cars, landscapes, throwbacks, animals, food, etc.) What types of comments does he/she get? How does he or she relate to his/her users?

Now choose a “traditional” celebrity account (musician, actor, athlete, model, personality, etc.).

What types of pictures does the person post? (Selfies, cars, landscapes, throwbacks, animals, food, etc.) What types of comments does he/she get? How does he or she relate to his/her users?

Compare and contrast these accounts. Does either account use the strategies described in the Marwick/Senft articles or the Swift/Franco essays? Why do you think the “ordinary person” has so many followers? How has Instagram changed “celebrity”? How do James Franco and Taylor Swift reflect on their own selfies, and how is that different from your reaction to your celebrity selfie?


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Selfies Syllabus by The Selfies Research Network is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.