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Considering the Compositions of Selfies

Written by Kevin Hodgson
May 16, 2014

Comic Selfie Collage

I had an interesting moment recently with two of my classes. We were watching the movie version of Tuck Everlasting (after reading the novel) and there is a scene where the Stranger (played by Ben Kingsley) stops alone in the woods and pulls out a handheld mirror, holding it up and examining his own facial features for signs of age.

I wish I could share a screenshot of the scene. He’s holding the mirror up high in the sky with his left hand, staring up at it with a stern expression while touching his face with his right hand. I never thought twice about it because it seemed obvious what he was doing.

Students in both classes, however, said the same exact thing as soon as they saw what he was doing, and their reaction was immediate and spontaneous, shouting out:

“Selfie!”

This is the first year that this has happened with the movie, and it reminded me again of how fast pop culture and technology is flowing through our world. A year ago, only a scattered few might even have heard of a selfie. Now, it’s become a youth touchstone, an automatic response to anyone who holds any kind of screen in front of them.

“Selfie!”

We had some time after state math testing yesterday, so I did a mini-lesson around selfies. We looked at the famous one from Ellen at the Oscars and talked about some elements of composition of the selfie:

  • face(s) in foreground
  • some sort of background visible
  • smiling, happy selfies are more likely to be viewed than sad, depressing ones
  • faces are off center, and shown on upward angle (because phone is held up, facing down)
  • some faces are closer; others farther away — giving the viewer multiple points to examine (more interesting than a single selfie, they agreed)
  • famous people are more likely to become viral
  • Instagram is the reason why selfies are so popular

Then, I brought the students into Bitstrips and told them: “Create a webcomic selfie and feel free to make it crazy.” Most were very excited about the assignment — they love making and using avatars in our comic site.

But one kid dropped his head.

“Do I have to? I am so sick of selfies.”

Maybe the tide is already turning.

Peace (in the mirror),
Kevin