Flying High with Selfies / Hyperallergic

Selfies Bot takes your selfie for you. (image via Twitter)

Selfies Bot takes your selfie for you. (image via Twitter)

LOS ANGELES — I was on an airplane flying back from Tulsa when I happened upon the phenomenon of mile-high selfies. Wifi is available up high, so why not take a selfie? Flight attendants are filling the skies with hashtags like #crewlife and #airhostess.

Somewhere in that limited air space, I also happened upon a link announcing a new ABC TV comedy show titled, simply, Selfie, which follows the life of a young woman who becomes Instafamous and then has to figure out what her relationships really mean. This seems to be just the tipping point of TV featuring questions that revolve around selfies; perhaps the execs at ABC took a cue from the web series #Hashtag, where there’s enough Instadrama to drain an iPhone battery in minutes.

While it’s important to remove selfies from their social-networked context to look at their broader cultural relevance, sometimes it’s funnier to just keep ’em on the ’net. Wisconsin House Representative and Republican Sean Duffy made a parody of the Chainsmokers’ video for their song “#SELFIE” as a way to “connect” with millennial voters. “I think Republicans often don’t like to engage in culture because they think it’s left-leaning,” says Duffy. “We can’t do that. We have to lean into this, and talk to people where they’re at.”

In other political selfie news, the Netherlands recently decided that it’s not illegal to take “stemfies” (vote selfies) in the ballot booth. If you do it in South Africa, however, you could end up in jail. South Africans are allowed to take selfies that indicate that they voted. “Voters may take photographs of themselves outside the voting station and of their inked thumbs to show participation,” says Electoral Commission of South Africa spokesperson Kate Bapela.

Similar debates around selfie appropriateness are taking place on college campuses. The University of South Florida in Tampa almost banned selfies at graduation; instead they’ve opted for warning people who take selfies that they could have their degrees withheld. Meanwhile Kent State University in Ohio has created a “selfie zone” with a backdrop, so that selfie shooters can still take pictures without diverting too much attention from the ceremony. We’re still working out when and where it’s culturally acceptable to take a selfie, and when it’s OK to post.

It’s definitely acceptable when you’re setting a Guinness World Record. Indiana-based blogger Mark E. Miller and his partner, Ethan Hethcote, went to South Beach in Miami and shot the most selfies taken in one hour: 355 of them, all with strangers. This is part of a bigger project called #missionsmile, which Miller told the Miami New Times is about “trying to get people to smile more.” It’s common knowledge that smiling helps lift one’s mood by releasing dopamine and serotonin, but is it necessary to take a selfie in that moment?

If you’re sick of the long-arm shot and would rather not hold the camera when taking selfies, but you also don’t want to to shell out for a dronie, just hang with the Selfies Bot. Scott Kildall, an artist-in-residence at Autodesk/Instructables Pier 9 Workshop in San Francisco, has created a portable robot sculpture that takes selfies and then tweets them; the text that accompanies each twit pic comes from scraping tweets hashtagged with #selfie.

Art, politics, and pop culture aside, the most important selfie news of this week is about safety. Courtney Ann Sanford, 32, was driving in North Carolina, listening to Pharrell Williams’s song “Happy” and feeling so great that she decided to take a selfie. Moments later, she crashed her car into a truck and died. Her gaze was up and away, looking at her reflection in the smartphone rather than straight ahead at the road in front of her.

Here are this week’s selfie shooters, who look before they aim.

Read the full selfie story on Hyperallergic