Quan Le: Self-perception , Social Media, and, Society.

  • My research is on the question of self-perception and the flow of embodiment. I want to understand how technological advances in self-portraiture have changed the way we experience ourselves. I began my research project with the observation that viewing myself in a photographic medium disrupts the flow of embodiment that I experience. I want to further understand the mechanisms at play in the process of self-perception which is why I am currently reading Merleau-Ponty’s Phenomenology of Perception. I believe that by understanding the phenomenology of perception – by engaging with perception as directly experienced rather than inquiring about any deeper nature of perception- I will be able to give an account of how our flow of embodiment is constituted by how we perceive ourselves. 
  • It is my belief that our bodies shape our subjectivity. The way that we, as individuals, interact with the world, is shaped through our lived experiences; our bodies are the recording surfaces that contain our past experiences which orient us in a particular way to navigate the world. 
  • There are two distinct ways in which we experience our bodies: the body as an object of perception and the body as the subject which perceives. 
  • Looking at oneself is a unique phenomenon which instantiates both modes of experiences. However, one mode of experience, namely the body as the object of perception, is privileged in the act of self-perception.   
  • My chief concern right now is understanding why this mode of experience is privileged (if there is an answer).
  • In addition to understanding the relationship between the experience of self-perception and the disruption in the flow of embodiment, I want to reflect upon our current modern situation where image-based platforms of identity are thriving. The first thing that came to mind for me is how closely linked Instagram is to personal identity; I observed that whenever two strangers interact nowadays, there is always an exchange of Instagram handles. Instagram, being an image-based social media platform, has become the main way of presenting one’s identity online. The presence of lifestyle influencers and the normalization of using Instagram as the main communication platform lead me to believe that the ways in which we see ourselves has drastically been influenced by our Instagram. 
  • Instagram’s primary function hasn’t always been a platform for presenting images of one’s body; I remember the early days of Instagram was populated with pictures of cats and coffee. The shift in content went from being images of various things to solely images of people. I speculate that this shift occurred as a result of Instagram being bought by Facebook; now both Instagram and Facebook are platforms where people share information about themselves, Facebook for an older generation and Instagram for the younger generation. Both platforms are primarily image-focused with textual information supplementing the image. Thus, I come back to the topic of self-perception, identity and embodiment.
Some readings on our post-modern condition. I hope to find an escape somewhere in these texts.
A photoshoot I did with my friends in Tisch for their light project. Every time my friends take pictures of me I always feel alienated from myself. I always think: “huh that’s what I look like.”

Another picture from the shoot; these pictures went viral on VSCO, an image-based platform. I’m always so surprised at how different I look in the mirror versus when I am photographed which lead me to question the location of the discrepancy.

Notes on The Phenomenology of Perception: the different modalities of understanding the body.