Final Meeting + Bibliography

Today we finalised the elements of our presentation, and curated our Facebook profile which we will use to present: “Anna King”

We also reflected on the different sources we’d used and how our different methodologies have come together to form this presentation. Here are a few sources that we have found to be useful inter-disciplinarily across our research:

Nicolas Bourriaud, Relational Aesthetics, (London: Les Presse Du Reel, 1998).

Zizi Papacharissi, “Conclusion,” A Networked Self, (Abingdon: Routledge, 2011).

boyd, d. m. and Ellison, N. B. (2007), Social Network Sites: Definition, History, and Scholarship. Journal of Computer‐Mediated Communication, 13: 210-230. doi:10.1111/j.1083-6101.2007.00393.x

YouTube Video, “The Self and the Selfie – Full Debate,” uploaded March 15, 2018,

Amber N. Schroeder, Jacqulyn M. Cavanaugh, “Fake it ‘til you make it: Examining faking ability on social media pages,”  – February 13, 2018, Computers in Human Behavior, July 2018, Vol.84, pp.29-35

Guy Debord, The Society of the Spectacle, (New York: Zone Books, 1994).




Narcissism and Social media


This is a really interesting debate, asking the question: could focusing on ourselves, rather than others, be a route to happiness and success? There was an interesting point made by Simon Blackburn about the contemporary practice of being in an art gallery and taking pictures of the art on display rather than even looking at it. This implies that social media identity and the constant anticipation of what we can share online is not only at conflict with our real lived experiences, but in some way reductive of our “real” identity. Instead of enjoying the art at the gallery do become narcissistically pre-occupied with portraying a certain impression of ourselves as culturally aware, educated, intelligent?

I became interested in their references to the myth of Narcissus, and it made me think of my favourite painting, Salvador Dali’s Metamorphoses of Narcissus. Dali depicts the title figure, almost stone-like, reflected in the pool of water, transfixed with his reflection. The reflection and the real body of Narcissus become blurred, they seem to merge into one. To some extent is social media identity like the reflection in the water, a virtual representation of ourselves, one that is not tangible but continuously alluring none the less. It is an identity that seems to blur into ourselves.


Metamorphosis of Narcissus 1937 Salvador Dal? 1904-1989 Purchased 1979

I wanted to incorporate the painting in some way to my part of the presentation because I think it is an interesting allegory of our relationship with online identity. While Dali clearly prefigured the age of social media, by thinking about how contemporary artists have explored the potentially narcissistic aspects of social media, I will look at how we can deconstruct our online personas, bringing into question the performativity of these platforms as a way of forging identity.

How are we defining the ‘self’ ?

Since trying to refine the opening segment of our presentation, I’ve found myself reading a lot about conflicting ideas of the ‘self’ and identity. I wanted to share that I’ve found Erving Goffman’s writing on the topic particularly useful as his performative ideas of impression management I think are particularly applicable to our online social media selves, so perhaps this is a useful thinking point:

Arab Spring, online “self” vs. physical “self”

Online “self”

-“personal character depicted and expressed through the modern technological medium of the Internet”

-focusing on social media and how “self” is portrayed in social media in contrast to the physical “self”


Physical “self”

-personal character depicted and expressed through physical attributes or presence


  1. Online profiles people have created during and after the Arab Spring and find patterns (using a specific example or two to illustrate)

-explosive growth in users (nearly 4,000 percent increase from 2000 to 2011, mainly due to youth groups)

Example: April 6 Youth Movement

-activist group for a large industrial town to support workers who were planning to go on strike

-early recognition as a powerful force in social media (70,000 young members who were never politically active before)

-activist and a leader of April 6 Movement Mohammed Adel arrested for criticizing the Egyptian government on social media


-tough struggle for activists like Adel to freely express one’s self, has resulted in him being closely watched for 12 hours a day by the government and loss of technological devices

-self-expression via technology has trade-offs. physically removed from society, technologically limited by government. Online vs. physical “self” hindered by political environment and government intervention

-loss or potential loss of one’s opportunity to physically express one’s self has mobilized millions to protest and express freely on the Internet, despite crackdowns

  1. Impact of viral video/social media and how it affects “self”

Mohamed Bouazizi=man who set himself on fire in Tunisia to protest

-collectivism, not individualism, appears to be dominant in social media. If collectivist expression is prioritized


Meeting summary- March 1st

This week, we went over our ideas from last week with George and decided to go ahead with focusing our project on exploring the conflicts between ‘real’ and digital (social media) identities. We explained our idea of making a digital identity/avatar that we could ask a student demographic about to research what they think can read about a person through their online content.

George raised concerns over time constraints and collecting relevant data from our ‘social media avatar’ in time for the presentation, but we have decided to go ahead and make the social media digital identity as soon as possible, concluding that there will be useful findings from any project, even with a short duration. Consequently, we will make a digital ‘identity’ avatar through social media accounts, each of us exploring the conflicts between this identity and ‘real’ life through methodologies relevant to our own disciplines. Hence, we will draw broader conclusions about the ways social media intervenes and intersects into everyday contemporary life. We will make this avatar project as a ‘realist’ depiction of a generation ‘Z’ King’s College London student.

We then started to refine how each of us could focus our research for this topic. George mentioned the relevance of a book by Tim Wu – The Attention Merchants in regards to Tannisha’s ideas on looking at how people are now making an income through Facebook and Instagram, affecting advertising and marketing. Tannisha also expressed an interest in looking into how social media artists interact with the ‘real’ art world, and any conflicts that arise here. Consequently, we thought it might be good for Susie and Tannisha to collaborate quite closely on their research, perhaps with Susie focusing on visual art and Tannisha focusing on digital written texts, as there will obviously be overlap in both these fields. Some ideas:

– Instagram poetry

– Rupi Kaur – Milk & Honey

– Does having poetry art online degrade its value ?

– Cultural appropriation of art ?

– Beyonce & Botticelli >

I then brought up my reading on reality TV and ideas of ‘mediated intimacy’ in the age of digital mass media. Hence, I am currently planning to look into how social media vloggers have become a kind of ‘reality tv’, fashioning their everyday lives into digital content.

A book that I have found really useful for this is The Spectacle of the Real, a collection of essays edited by Geoff King. This book draws all sorts of interesting conclusions about ideas of a spectacle society – Guy Debord’s ideas of a world in which:

“all of life presents itself as an immense accumulation of spectacles. Everything that was directly lived has moved away into a representation.” (1) Guy Debord, 


In terms of specific conflicts, I am particularly interested in the moment when digital content becomes a digital ‘identity’ and where we draw this line – at what extent does digital/social media representation constitute an ‘actual/real’ person. I thought a study of the performative aspects of identities might be useful here; for instance, posting on social media (tweeting, writing a status etc.) isn’t considered a ‘performance’ activity but the way in which social media collects and archives content forms digital identities is a sort of ‘performed’ identity.

Tannisha then highlighted that this relates back to her earlier research interests into interpersonal relations through social media, and how it is easier to cheat online, (catfishing) so again we thought this might be an interesting intersection between our work. To look at how social media creates a sense of intimacy with a person, through their choices of what to post: ‘mediated intimacy’.

We then thought that Sherman could bring in his political view of our findings with his own examples that he has been detailing on the blog, perhaps by concluding our presentation with broader ideas about the manifestation of power through social media.

Finally, we discussed that we thought it would be innovative to write our presentation notes on the profile itself, so we could present from the social media posts? I will explain in the next session if that doesn’t make sense!


-Make social media avatar (in the meeting thursday)

-Reply to blog post to check that everyone is relatively happy to start going ahead on these research guidelines

-Start finding relative secondary reading

Research update on Arab Spring, digital media, social networks, and the conflict between the personal self and digital “self”

Recently, I have tried to look at different articles and other sources about the Arab Spring, democratization, and the usage of digital media to combat authoritarianism. Through my readings, I’ve read that while there is a sense of general social connectivity that can counter an authoritarian government, digital media has compelled people to both create an online profile of themselves in any manner they want. Based on the things I talked about last time I reported to the rest of the group, I want to look at:


-the online profiles people have created during and after the Arab Spring and find patterns (using a specific example or two to illustrate)

-how both the online “self” and the physical/personal “self” is strengthened or weakened by collectivist social media connections (based on what I’ve read, there’s a greater emphasis towards collectivism because there is still concern on the ability for and government scrutiny of an individual activist) and government (which does attempt to crack down on users that don’t comply with the government agenda) during and after the Arab Spring

-how both types of “self” are significant to our understanding of personal identity


One of the most important examples of the use of social media during the Arab Spring is the self-immolation of Mohamed Bouazizi. Looking at how that rather tragic event and how it sparked further protests and social networking would be interesting. The incident, to some sources, sparked debate on how people in the Middle East should view themselves in relation to the authoritarian regimes they were living in, and I think that starting from there and looking at multiple patterns could provide an answer to the question about the digital “self” and the personal self.


I will explain in further detail about the examples I am still finding and researching. But let me know what you think about this with questions, comments, and suggestions. I think this can transition well with our idea of creating a “fake online profile” and placing it into a contentious political and historical context.

Research Update

I have been doing a bit more research into artists using social media, critiquing the ways that people interact and project their identity online. I have been thinking about how social media can become a medium for artistic performances and how these can scrutinize our everyday “performances” on social platforms?

I have come across the work of Lauren McCarthy, an American artist whose art often utilises and reimagines social networking technologies in a kind of dystopian fashion to consider the ways that sharing has become ingrained in our lives. For instance, her work Follower, in which she has created an app that people can download and request a real life “Follower” for a day.

McCarthy says: “If you are selected, you are given an app to download, and you wait. You don’t know when it will happen. The following lasts one day. At the end, you are left with one photo of you, taken by your Follower. The Follower stays just out of sight, but within your consciousness.” I thought this was an interesting idea, the fact that on social media we are “programmed” in a sense to desire more and more followers, yet in real life the idea of surveillance and being watched is an inherently uncomfortable and problematic one. The artwork explores this paradox.

The artist comments: “We have this intense desire to be seen, to feel connected. But is that desire really fulfilled by watching your follower count tick upward? Could a real life follower provide something more meaningful or satisfying?” She explores the idea that we are satisfied by having people see what we are doing, sharing our lives with anonymous followers, could this thus be fulfilled in the same by knowing there was someone following us in real life, tracking our movements through our phone? I was interested in whether this real life following would be to some extent a transferal of our activity on social media, do we become more acutely aware of what we are doing when we know someone is watching, does our online performance then filter into our real lives?

This is a really cool project and definitely something to have a look at. Also a good idea to have a look at some of McCarthy’s other artworks where she allows technological interactions to dictate her real life actions. More details can be found here:

I also have been doing some more research into American Artist’s work A Refusal (that Tannisha mentioned in her post below). I wanted to explore more about what is at stake when one refuses the online performance of self on social media. American Artist brings into question, “who is really gaining from the labor we put into sustaining our online selves?” I thought this was an important thing to think about, the idea that by being on social media we are doing more than portraying a carefully imagined ideal of ourselves, we are also partaking in a kind of “labour” where corporations are benefitting from our online activity.

American Artist cites the article ‘Care Work and the Stakes of Social Media Refusal’ in his motivations for the artwork, thinking about how we could reject the capitalist systems of media corporations. Definitely have a read, the article offers some really interesting insights:

The author, Laura Portwood-Stacer, explores what it means to abstain from social networks and the dynamics of power that are inherently involved in this active refusal. She states: “Though it is problematic that the relationships we create or nurture online are mined as network data, walking away from these relationships may not be a realistic option for people who, for better or worse, depend on Facebook to enable their connections to others.” The idea that to opt out of social media takes a certain privilege that many can’t afford: “the emotional, social costs of Facebook non-participation may be higher for those who carry the responsibility for maintaining family and community connectedness.” It is interesting that Portwood-Stacer treats this as a particularly female role, the idea that the women, usually in a position of carer in the family, has an emotional duty to perform her online self that she does not have the option to abstain from. (This links quite nicely to Amalia Ulman’s work Excellences and Perfections, thinking about the duties and expectations of female performance online)

I thought it was interesting then to see how American Artist negotiates the idea of remaining on social networking but “refusing” to take part in the capitalist systems that underlie it by not performing an online self, or performing an alternative version with his blue “voided images”. American artist also mentions Guy Dubord’s text Society of the Spectacle as an influence in his work. I thought this could be an interesting work to look at in this context, I will have a read over the coming week and see if I find anything of interest – is American Artist a modern day situationist?

I was also thinking a bit about Humans of New York, thinking about the way photojournalism has a place on social media and how it converges with online interactions and the portrayal of self. Brandon Stanton’s project seems to be about revealing the “inner lives” of ordinary New Yorkers (and now individuals from all across the world appear on his page), it seems to suggest that everyone has an extraordinary or profound experience that is worth sharing. This is an interesting article that explores the “problems” with HoNY. Might be something worth exploring:

Hope this is helpful! Looking forward to hearing where everyone else is at in their research.

15th February

This week we discussed some of our new research on conflict in the digital space. Since everyone seemed quite happy with the scope of the topic, we spent a significant portion of our time fine-tuning ideas for an online project and our survey.

Sherman spoke to us about his research on the Arab Spring concerning political conflict and social media. We discussed the powerful ability that the internet sometimes yields in radicalizing people, and the concerns this raises about free speech. This lead to conversations about broader topics like the different ways in which different communities around the world, engage with the digital space and the social consequences of this.

We discussed the usage of anonymous websites like and gossip girl, and what it is that makes them appealing to some people. We also discussed how these platforms can so easily be misused and lead to cyberbullying and other forms of abuse online.

I shared some of my research about the impact of social media on the advertising and marketing industry, considering it’s unquestionable importance in influencing trends especially in choices about where to travel and eat. I also shared some other research about the pros and cons of being in a relationship in the digital era.

Susie shared with us her research on different art and performance pieces that delve into the conflicts created by the digital space. One of them was a year-long internet-based performance called ‘A Refusal’ where the artist called the American Artist, erased all the content that would normally be published on Facebook instead replacing them with blue rectangles reminiscent of the “blue screen of death” by Microsoft. In his project statement the artist revealed a kind of cruelty at the centre of social media platforms like Facebook which offer users an experience- “As if the faces of those they love or admire are being dangled from a string of holes in front of them, but close enough to keep them running on a treadmill that fuels the spectacle of society.” This sparked conversation on whether choosing to not be on social media was radical. We also discussed other performance pieces like Excellences and Perfections by Amalia Olman.

Discussions about these performance projects and Rosie’s ideas for a vlog, lead to an idea to create a fake digital person to explore the extent to which social media blurs the line between reality and performance. As we brainstormed about the idea more we decided that since it is so often that we know people only as their online presence, it would be interesting to see how easy it was to deceive people into believing something that was not true and study the judgments they create about others based on what they see on their social media. In order to do this, we decided that the people we should ‘perform’ this project to should be other King’s students so that we could later question them to find out what they thought about the person. We thought that a possible title for the project could be- ‘Making a digital identity: the conflicts between reality and social media’.

Actions: 1) Think of questions for the survey 2) Finetune idea for the social media project

Meeting Summary – 8th February

This week, we revised our ideas for the group project to refine precisely what we are interested in researching. After going away and individually researching racial conflict and social media, some of us raised concerns at a lack of resources on the topic, meaning our presentation might be restricted to a very small research area. However, we decided we were definitely still interested in researching something to do with conflict and digital space/social media.

We discussed current political conflict that is circulating online, including ideas of ‘net neutrality’ and how digital space is effected by censorship. Some interesting articles on this topic:

This raised a discussion of how each of us as individuals interact with online space, and how this differs across world cultures and contrasting political climates. Consequently, we began discussing how different generations interact with social media, and Tannisha mentioned this YouTube video which features Simon Sinek talking about millennials in the work place:

Tannisha also mentioned some of her previous writing on the performance of the digital self, a topic which we all had an interest in. As a result we have decided to change our focus to begin exploring the conflict between our ‘real’/physical selves and our ‘digital self’.

We think exploring everyday conflicts between the ‘real’ and digital self will provide interesting results that can be focussed in different ways for each of our disciplines. For instance, we might look at how individuals interact with politics or art online, or how platforms such as YouTube and Instagram have encouraged individuals to start earning money through creating an online ‘personality’.


-George mentioned the relevance of a book called “Filling the Void,” by Marcus Gilroy-Ware that should be of use, and will scan the bibliography to share with us

-Suzie will fill out the minimal ethical risk form in case we decide to survey students about our topic

-Each of us will find a case study based in our respective disciplines focussing on the conflict between the ‘real’ and digital self

-Each of us will find a few key texts relating to this new topic

-Sherman will start a google document so we can continue to share ideas with George even if the blog is down