I organized this panel for this international conference, hosted in 2014 by The University of Texas at Austin.


"Selfies and Zombies: Confronting Our Media, Cultural, and Cosmic Conditions"


"Visual Culture and Our Online Zombie Baggage" PDF

• Angela Cirucci, Temple University

"Distorted Humans: Selfies and Zombies" PDF

• Genevieve Gillespie, Temple University 

"Selfies and Zombies: Confronting Narcissism, Nihilism, and Nothingness" PDF

• Barry Vacker, Temple University 

Click here for PDF of the panel and paper summaries.

Summary: Selfies and Zombies

Selfies and zombies — two of the most viral images proliferating in the global media environments. Psychologists and social scientists link selfies to an epidemic of media-inspired narcissism, while cultural critics see zombies as metaphors for war, pandemics, ecological destruction, Darwinian capitalism, and consumer culture run amok. While there truth is in these observations, this panel will explore other meanings in selfies and zombies, meanings that directly connect social media to global media and the prevailing cultural and cosmic conditions.

On one hand, humans are using the internet and social media to link up everyone and everything on the planet, supposedly as reflections of a “cloud,” “global brain,” and a “smarter planet” — a networked planet on which we are the center of everything. On the other hand, the media technologies of satellites and space telescopes have revealed we inhabit a small planet in a vast and ancient cosmos, where we are newcomers with no self-evident meaning for our existence — in a universe in which we are the center of nothing. In between these two existential conditions, humans participate in a global media system and consumer society that is supposed to provide the means for each of us to craft meanings and micro-narratives for our lives, economies, and societies. At least that what we are told.

This panel will explore how selfies and zombies reflect responses to these conditions, focusing on the roles of the photograph, internet and social media, and the prevailing loss of grand narratives, all existing within the viral and global media environments.