Giving an Account with Selfies

Yesterday I mentioned that I was embarking on a new social media project with my daughter: Mo and Ro take a Ride. We’re still in the beginning stages—we’ve only done one ride, but we’ve already decided to snap selfies on each trip. Why selfies? It’s partly because I want to use Instagram more (okay, at all…my last pictures are from 2012). But, it’s also because snapping pictures of ourselves at the different locations could not only be fun, but enable us to mark the occasion of the ride and hold us accountable for our commitment to doing the project.

At some point, I’d like to write more about the idea of using instagram/selfies to be held accountable and to give an account. This concept is greatly inspired by my amazing friend KCF and her super-cool #reimaginefemme and self-care projects on Instagram

For now, I want to mention another source that I recently found (thanks to STA/room34): Lost or Found. it’s hiker/designer/selfie-taker Andy Davidhazy’s film project about hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. Part of the project is a time-lapse video of the selfies that Davidhazy took at each of the 2,600 miles of the trail. I like his explanation for doing selfies:

Taking a photo of myself every mile wasn’t about vanity, but rather a way for me to fully commit to the whole hike. If I were to quit or skip ahead at any point, myself and everyone else would know it. Apart from that, I simply wanted to document my transformation in a memorable way.

Andy Davidhazy

Later on in his explanation, Davidhazy adds:

The process of stopping to take a picture every mile had a big impact on the actual experience of doing the hike. I had to be well-aware of where I was at all times, which was quite distracting in that it took me out of the moment and made it difficult to maintain good momentum.

Andy Davidhazy

In my own storytelling, especially in terms of marking occasions, I’m always thinking about how to create a balance between participating in the occasion and marking it. I want to experience the moment, not just document it. Using an iPhone and snapping quick shots for Instagram, does make it easier, but as Davidhazy found, it can still be distracting. Will it be distracting for me and Ro on our biking adventures? We’ll have to see.

Mo and Ro take a bike ride

On Saturday, I came up with an idea for a new social media story project: Mo and Ro take a bike ride. I’m Mo (Mom) and my 9 year old daughter is Ro (Rosie). We have big plans to ride our bikes all around Minneapolis this summer. To encourage us to do so (and to commemorate the process), why not take selfies at each destination (here’s the first one) we reach?

Mo and Ro, Ride 1: Lake Nokomis, 7 miles
Mo and Ro, Ride 1: Lake Nokomis, 7 miles

I’m excited about this story experiment. Last school year I did a story project with Rosie, Moments with Rosie, but that was not that much of a collaborative project. She performed; I shot and posted the video. I’m hoping this time around, Rosie can be more of an active participant in the crafting and documenting of our stories. She’s taking the selfies. And, I’m hoping she can help me design a site for archiving and sharing our adventures. I’m also hoping that she will help me write stories and/or create maps, tracking our travels.

Note: I also took a really brief bit of footage of her at the Lake. Here it is, (only) slightly edited:

What does it feel like to be you?

Having bookmarked it a few days ago, I started my morning by reading Alice Gregory’s book review for Sarah Manguso’s ‘Ongoingness’ in the New Yorker. Really interesting. I’ve already requested two of Manguso’s memoirs from my local library.

There’s so much to discuss in this short book review. For now, I’ll just mention the final paragraph:

One could argue that reading memoirs comes more naturally to us now than ever before. Our critical faculties and emotional voyeurism are primed as they’ve never been. Social media barrage us daily with fragmented first-person accounts of people’s lives. We have become finely tuned instruments of semiotic analysis, capable of decoding at a glance the false enthusiasm of friends, the connotations of geotags, the tangle of opinions that lie embedded in a single turn of phrase. Continuously providing updates on life for others can encourage a person to hone a sense of humor and check a sense of privilege. It can keep friendships alive that might otherwise fall victim to entropy. But what constantly self-reporting your own life does not seem to enable a person to do—at least, not yet—is to communicate to others a private sense of what it feels like to be you. With “Ongoingness,” Manguso has achieved this. In her almost psychedelic musings on time and what it means to preserve one’s own life, she has managed to transcribe an entirely interior world.

Alice Gregory on Sarah Manguso

I am eager to read Manguso’s book. I wonder, how readable is her account? How intelligible are her “psychedelic musings”? How does a private account of what it feels like to be you differ from a public one?

Addendum: April 16, 2015

While searching through my safari reading list, I found a The Rumpus interview with Sarah Manguso that I bookmarked several weeks ago. I’m adding it here, for reference:

The Rumpus Interview with Sarah Manguso