The Curated Ego: What Makes a Good Selfie?

I am really struggling to come up with ideas for Assignment 2. I’ve been finding myself in the creative doldrums for the last couple of months and need to find a way out of this terrible spiral. I was looking through some photographers’ work, searching for inspiration when I happened on an interesting video on Carly Clarke’s website in which one of her photos was featured.

The talk was by James Kilner, Senior Lecturer in Human Motor Neurosciences, University College London. Briefly the talk was about what goes on in our brain when we look at portraits, or specifically selfies. Basically the brain has to recognise that we are looking at a face and what emotions are being presented. We then possibly have some kind of empathic response and maybe we extract some kind of higher level of perception and meaning about what we think this person may be doing. Kilner then went on to explain how the brain processes the visual information but more importantly how visual information is perceived. Our brain can influence our percepts, and he quoted Gustave Flaubert who said “there is no such thing as reality. There is only perception”. What we see out there has been clouded by our own experiences in our lifetime (shades of Roland Barthes indeed). Apparently we are all very bad at visual representation and this is due to the poor visual feedback we have of ourselves. An extremely interesting video to watch.

Reference List

National Portrait Gallery (2014).  Part 4: The Curated Ego: What Makes a Good Selfie? [user-generated content online] Creat. studioSTRIKE at the National Portrait Gallery. 3 March, 2014.  12 min 57 sec Available at: (Accessed 23 October, 2016)


3 thoughts on “The Curated Ego: What Makes a Good Selfie?”

  1. That was a fascinating talk, Lynda. Thank you for sharing it! I show a DVD in my sociology class that deals, in part, with what James Kilner is talking about: how we recognize emotions in others by mimicking them ourselves. I definitely think Kilner’s talk has implications for understanding how people perceive and react to portraiture. Nice connection!


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