Author ORCID Identifier

Date of Award

Summer 8-17-2019

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Moving Image Studies

First Advisor

Alessandra Raengo

Second Advisor

Jennifer Barker

Third Advisor

Angelo Restivo

Fourth Advisor

Amy Herzog


This dissertation examines technologies of self-mediation and their impact on contemporary visual culture. Since the standard inclusion of the forward-facing camera on the iPhone 4 in 2010, self-mediation has become a widespread form of digital media engagement. Approaching digital self-mediation as a durational event, this dissertation focuses on narrative films, or what I deem “narcisscinema,” and other serial aesthetic practices. In order to address the range of practices possible through technologies of self-mediation, I mobilize the various aesthetic aids through which narcissism has been approached in critical theory. Following an introduction in chapter one, chapter two “The Pool: Narcissism and the Moving Image,” establishes the use value of cinema as a mapping tool that exposes the affective complexity of self-mediation. Chapter three, “The Mirror: Narcissism as Affective Form,” analyzes Darren Aronfosky’s Black Swan (2010) as a poetics of narcissism, examining self-mediation as a disciplinary practice. Chapter four, “Play: Narcissism and Creative Invention,” reviews Deleuze’s reaffirmation of narcissism as a form of play, addressing forms of self-assertion that disrupt the faciality of contemporary selfie culture. Chapter five, “Allure: Narcissism and the Object,” extends this analysis further into a discussion of the incipient narcissism of western philosophy including the recent object-oriented philosophy. Here, I interpret object-oriented ontology as a philosophical form of self-mediation given its preoccupation with the human as object. While the first chapters consider contemporary films which reproduce the zeitgeist of contemporary digital culture by essentializing the mediated self as a white heteronormative female (thereby reproducing the ideal object of the gaze), the latter two chapters further develop a critical racial analysis of photo-sharing and social networking sites, arguing that digital visual culture underscores a formal notion of the subject that first emerged in Enlightenment aesthetic philosophy and always necessitates a problematic racial and gendered hierarchy. Finally, in the coda I examine Jenn Nkiru’s music video for Kamasi Washington’s “Hub Tones” (2018) as an alternative model of self-assertion which disrupts contemporary digital culture’s commerce in faces and its commodification of difference.


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