Annotation: McKay, Deirdre. 2010. On the Face of Facebook

McKay, Deirdre. 2010. On the Face of Facebook: Historical Images and Personhood in Filipino Social Networking. History & Anthropology, 21(4):479-498.

Exploring the use of historical images as profile photos by her 43 Filipino “friends” on Facebook, McKay suggests that photographs are not merely “prosthetic biographies” (Cecilia Lury 1988), but are also aspects of others and of the self that are mediated by reciprocal display. Looking beyond the materiality of photographs, McKay suggests that images represent relationships and carry their own histories (488). Following Amy Voida and Elizabeth Mynatt (2005) in that a certain “spirit” is required to take photographs, McKay writes that the making of personal digital images requires a particular affective state to impel their production (483). Using the social network theory and the theory of relational personhood, McKay argues that Facebook as a new interactive technology “shifts users towards recognizing a more markedly relational self” (496). The author reads the changing of profile photos as demonstrative of “performing selves.” Such action is marked by a “mix of humility and self-expression” (485). For instance, users usually remove photographs that they later self-evaluate as inappropriate. Also, the posting of a portrait of a local tribal chief by a Facebook user-respondent who recently separated from a partner is an exercise of “local expression” that brings to the attention of her social network the shared memories of childhood and ancestry (488). Such use of historical images as profile photos shows: 1) how images index, affect and convey emotional states; 2) how the personal and emotional language of profile photos conveys one’s feelings in a manner understood by “true friends” (488-9). Historical or nostalgic photographs as profile photos are also expressions of the Filipinos’ post-colonial pride, political views and commitments (492). While also signs of their affective attachment to the self-reflective versions of themselves, historical portraits as photographs also establish their “belonging beyond family and neighbourhood, kinship and propinquity” (494). The respondents’ appropriations of the photos which may sometimes infringe on copyright laws serve as their gestures of political solidarity with their ancestors whose images were disparaged in the past.


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