Are We Commodities?

What do you do when you only have a class of six people and have been asked to get creative? Well you go outside find a couch and pose like the characters from Friends.

This week in class we discussed the selfie (my laptop did not leave a red underline below the word “selfie”!) phenomenon that started when student, Sarah De Vries, posted a selfie and, by using the hashtags #ALC708 #ALC203, asked everyone in the class to be brave and post a selfie as well.

What happened next was probably unexpected for Sarah… her classmates were brave and posted selfies along with her. To think our 5pm class last week was discussing the death of the selfie! Back to the feed, over the week the #ALC203 stream was filled with the faces of students and not just the display photos. Selfie after selfie rolled in and rolled throughout the classes and caused a war between campuses!

Selfie War.jpg

– #selfiewar My most marvellous ideas come on the tram

What does this mean in the broader scheme of things? Well for starters, Sarah created a viral community amongst our cohort – a network of selfies if you may – it was organic and, as aforementioned, unexpected that it would take off the way it did. Students could have ignored Sarah’s calls for bravery but alas students got on board and posted their (mostly smiling) faces. Why? Personally, I posted in support. At the time I was conveniently already on my phone looking at Twitter and within five seconds of seeing her tweet I had my selfie online for the group to see. Others may have different motives but mine was pure support and ease to join in on the phenomenon.

Adam ‘God with a dog’ Brown said this evening that “we are the product” and while that might sound deep, it is indeed reality. When we post something on social media like a selfie who owns it? Think about it for a moment because it is not you.

Let us for have a look at how most social medias make money. If you as the user are not paying to use the service, then why are Facebook and Twitter free? How are they on the stock market? Why would anyone want to buy shares from business who give away their service for free? It is because our profiles and information are sold off to marketing groups who then use that information, that by the way we have given away for free (see Facebook’s Terms of Service), to target and sell products to us. That is how they make their money. So are really a user or being used?

We are commodities.

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– I was originally going to call this blog post ‘Thoughts from the Tram’ because this whole post was written on my tram ride home – The Office is where ever you are!

Afterthought: Why did we choose to parody friends? – one of the big celebrity culture drivers of the ’90s. Does anyone else remember the ‘Rachel’ or just think about how many girls called Rachel you know today?

  1. Brilliant stuff! Love the way you’ve ‘branded’ this post in light of the movie about to come out. Clever stuff. You’re using a lot of great visual content and complementing this really well with your written reflections. I would have loved to hear even more about the image – it occurs to me now (it didn’t at the time) that the Friends ‘selfie’ can serve as a very useful metaphor of how we bring the ‘real’ (Hollywood) celebrities ‘down to our level’ and at the same time can be (temporarily) propelled to their ‘heights’. On another minor note, your last image (non-crucial content wise) could have been cropped/shrunk, but not a big deal (I keep thinking the same for my earlier post of the distant selfie-taker on the beach). Some images can be smaller and fit beside text to give an even more integrated feel – worth keeping in mind anyway. Keep up the good work! – Adam

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