US: Leading university offers course on selfies

People taking selfies in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris Image copyright AFP
Image caption There's no escaping selfie-takers at tourist landmarks, or in most other places

Students at a top California university can now take a course devoted to selfies.

Officially, the first-year class is called Writing and Critical Reasoning: Identity and Diversity, although on the University of Southern California campus it is better known as #SelfieClass, the LA Times reports.

The course explores how people construct "an image of their identity - their gender, their ethnicity, their sexuality, their socioeconomic status" in selfies, says associate professor Mark Marino. It also examines the audience response to each image, a process he describes as "the co-creation of identity".

Students have to examine both their own selfies and those taken by celebrities - an early exercise asks them to consider what can be gleaned from a photo Beyonce took of her own feet.

While some people consider selfie-taking a sign of modern narcissism, the professor disagrees, arguing it's just the latest way humans have found to communicate. "This process began the first time someone put their hands on the wall of a cave and it continued with the written letters, painted self-portraits and personal diaries," he tells the Chinese news agency Xinhua.

To prevent things becoming too self-obsessed, students have to take part in a service project, helping local young people to apply for university scholarships. That element of the course encourages them to interact with people beyond their online social networks, Mr Marino tells the LA Times, describing it as "selfie awareness".

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