Selfies and Authorship: On the Displayed Authorship and the Author Function of the Selfie

  • Julia Eckel


One of the main defining features of the selfie—according to most of its definitions—is that it is “a photo that one has taken of oneself” (Oxford Dictionaries 2013)—which means: It is a photo that documents and at the same time exhibits an act of authorship. Specific visual indicators within the picture—for example, the outstretched arm or selfie stick of the self(ie) photographer, which points to the viewer’s/camera’s standpoint, as well as helping devices such as mirrors or remote-control releases, and so on—are read as visual signs that a photograph is “truly” a self-portrait or selfie. The chapter focuses on this special type of displayed authorship that seems to be so crucial for the selfie to be defined as such. The term “displayed authorship” is, on one hand, referring to the specific and aforementioned visual trait of the selfie being a photograph that shows its photographer in the moment of making the photo, thereby being at the same time a visual documentation of an act of authorship and its result, and, on the other hand, it pays attention to the word and concept of “selfie” as a terminological indicator that is used as an affirmation for this authorial gesture, even if the image itself may not show the standard indicators just mentioned. Building on these ideas, the chapter elaborates on the authorial specifics of the selfie by referring to current debates about this “new” type of self-image and by relating it to questions of authorship in the field of photography and literary theory. Using the concept of the “autoportraitistic pact” developed by Ingrid Hölzl as well as Michel Foucault’s definition of “the author function,” the chapter points to some general changes in the concept of the (authorial) self—not only within the context of art but in our current societies and mediatized environments as well.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Julia Eckel
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Philipps-University MarburgMarburgGermany
  2. 2.Ruhr-University BochumBochumGermany

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