POSTMODERN PREMODERNISTS: Social Media and Human Identity in a Vast Universe

Angela Cirucci and Genevieve Gillespie field questions at the Visual Anthropology Conference.

Multmedia panel presentation featuring founding associates from the Center for Media and Destiny.


• Temple University, April 8-10, 2013

• Kiva Auditorium in Ritter Auditorium



Postmodern Premodernists: Social Media and Human Identity in a Vast Universe

• Wednesday, April 10, 9:15 - 10:00 am.


Genevieve Gillespie (Panel Chair), "Premodern Profile Page: The Ancestry of 'Updates'" View/download powerpoint: PDF

Angela Cirucci, "Facebook Avatars: Our Constant Struggle to Level-Up"  View/download powerpoint: PDF

Barry Vacker, "Facebook and the Hubble Space Telescope: Visualizing Our Place in the Cosmos"   View/download powerpoint: PDF


The visual artifacts of social media convey profound cultural conditions regarding human identity and destiny — in a vast universe of which we are not the center. As such, social media have ancient origins and their communicative abilities are not new. Whether it’s petroglyphs on a canyon wall, status updates in Facebook, or avatars in a video game, visual representations of the human experience through social media technologies have revealed clear existential patterns in both premodern and postmodern societies. For thousands of years, humans have used visual imagery to confer and convey recognition and distinction amongst members of their societies. These images both represent and create realities, depending on their social function. Do these images suggest humans are desperately trying to anchor and define themselves in time and space?

Do they reflect the collective and individual desire to be remembered and recognized, to feel important and be identified --  to say “We exist” or “I exist”? What does the future hold for a society of postmodern premodernists stuck in a loop of self-representation as they struggle to regain security and identity at the center of their mediated universes?  Drawing from recent academic publications by the panelists, this innovative discussion will critique the visual artifacts of social media in the context of petroglyphs in Chaco Canyon, Facebook, video games, and media technologies such as electronic screens and the Hubble Space Telescope