On Kanye West

In “super publics,” danah boyd talks about how digital technologies are constructing and maintaining new ideas about what means to be “public.” Whereas, traditionally, the concept of public is “bounded by space, time and audience,” the introduction of new digital architectures as encouraged new understandings of the public space. While this certainly has positive implications (connecting communities that would have historically remained separate, for example), this is also introduced new challenges in competently navigating the public sphere. Information posted on the Internet has the ability to be transmitted to audiences that the user could not have predicted. Indeed, certain people can participate in the public theater of the digital world without consenting to or even being aware of their participation.

This brings me to Kanye. Yesterday, he attended the Super Bowl XLIX, where he was spotted by a couple of Seahawks fans decided it would be a great time to snap a selfie:


West very obviously does not want to be part of the photo–he’s scowling, hunching his shoulders, refusing to make eye contact with camera, and generally making it clear that taking a selfie was not high on his list of priorities. However, despite these visual cues, the boys decided to take the photo anyway. To a certain extent, it seems like West lacked any control over whether or not his image was going to be used; regardless of his feelings on the matter, he was going to be in the photo.

This seems like an extension of the enthusiastic self-representation boyd discusses towards the end of her essay. Teenagers (or, I would argue, all competent Internet users, irrespective of age) are eager to expose the details of their own lives on the digital stage, filling their Instagram feeds with pictures of their breakfasts and tweeting candid discussions of their everyday lives.

However, these savvy Internet users are also inclined to impose this pattern of open digital expression onto others. The idea that one could feel entitled to co-opt the image of another seems invasive to me. Though, as a celebrity, Kanye West is a special case (since his position as a public figure arguably lends itself to the idea that he is always part of the “public,” and therefore always selfie-able), I’ve definitely noticed friends and acquaintances snapping of photos or shooting grainy cell phone videos of people who did not receive the opportunity to opt out.

One thought on “On Kanye West

  1. caropark

    I think there are definite “victims” of relentless selfie-takers like the inconsiderate so-called trend of teens taking selfies with sleeping, homeless people on the streets. In Kanye’s case here, it could very well be possible that he absolutely did not consent to this selfie, or was not very happy to indulge. I did however come across an article from The Guardian, revealing Kanye’s reasoning behind not smiling in photographs. http://www.theguardian.com/fashion/2015/jan/27/-sp-kanye-west-on-the-real-reason-he-never-smiles-paparazzi

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