Wish you ‘like’ here

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A recent article on the National Geographic website referred to how social networking sites, such as Instagram, is influencing tourists’ holiday destinations. Instead of going to a travel agent to flick through holiday brochures, social media users are enticed by the idyllic views they scroll through on their digital devices.

Not only do the images persuade someone to visit such beautiful places, but also they urge users to want to replicate the same images on their profiles. After all,  the ‘like’ is social currency, and the more ‘likes’ you receive, the more popular you appear to be. Therefore, in order to compete with such competition, Instagrammers search for destinations where they can capture the same such shots of paradise. 

In addition to this, there has been a decline in the popularity of Club 18 to 30 holidays, because people are now preferring the convenience of starting relationships on dating apps.  Furthermore, alcohol strewn images don’t look as cool for millenials. They are preferring to opt for photo opportunities in far flung places, so that they can adorn the walls of their social media profiles with picturesque views  

Subsequently, place has become an important aspect of digital identity. This is something that I would like to explore further when thinking about ideas for my fourth assignment. 

The Selfie: self-obsession or self-expression?

In 2013, the Oxford English Dictionary attributed ‘selfie’ with ‘word of the year’. Everyone and anyone seemed to be taking selfies. Celebrities with other celebrities, and celebrities with their adoring fans. Taylor Swift commented that:

I haven’t been asked for an autograph since the invention of the iPhone with a front-facing camera. The only momento ‘kids these days’ want is a selfie.” 

During 2015, 24 billion selfies were uploaded. The latest smart phones now have a second, front facing camera, which enables the user to photograph themself at arms length, ensuring they’re in the frame. It would appear as though this was a recent phenomenon, which  has transformed our image making culture. However, the practice of taking self-portraits can be traced back throughout the history of photography. 

Even when photography was in its infancy, photographers were taking photographs of themselves. If the definition of a selfie is a self-portrait, then it is widely believed that the first selfie was created by amateur chemist and photography enthusiast Robert Cornelius’ (below), which he took in 1839. 

 Self-portrait, by Robert Cornelius  

Self-portrait, by Robert Cornelius  

However, others insist that a selfie is a photograph taken using a digital device and posting it online. Therefore the first known modern selfie was taken and posted online by an Australian student, called Hopey, in September 2002 (below). It shows the injuries that he sustained from tripping over during a 21st birthday party.  

 The first modern selfie, by Hopey.  

The first modern selfie, by Hopey.  

Before the addition of a front-facing camera on digital devices, people had to make do with photographing themselves in bedroom and bathroom mirrors. They would go to great lengths to capture themselves looking their best. 

On Instagram there are over 328,000,000 images tagged with #selfie. So why has taking selfies become so popular?  

Previously, if you wanted your photograph taken in front of a famous landmark, you might have politely asked a stranger if they could use your camera. However, due to the amount of private and personal information stored on expensive smart phones, it is understandable as to why people would want to take the photograph themselves. Furthermore, the increase in popularity of social networking sites such as Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook has provided digital natives with a platform to post images of themselves. 

Despite its popularity, not everyone is a fan of the selfie. The urge for people to photograph themselves and publish the results of their social media is considered to be narcissistic by some. The aim of many posters is to accumulate as many ‘likes’ for their selfie as possible. However, Schwarz (2010: 180) warns that: ‘extracting value from your body is a risky game. A high stakes example of this would be on dating apps, such as Tinder, whereby a single swipe determines how desirable a selfie is.

Conversely, the selfie could be viewed as an acceptable form of self-expression. After all artists, such as Picasso and Van Gogh often painted their own self-portrait, so why should it be any different for a photographer?  

Reference

Schwarz, Ori (2010) ‘On Friendship, Boobs and the Logic of the Catalogue: Online Self-Portraits as a Means for the Exchange of Capital’, Convergence 16( 2): 163–283

 

Let's go to a place

OCA tutor, Wendy McMurdo, uses photography to document the relationship between children and technology. She is currently exhibiting 'Let's Go to a Place', at the Edinburgh Museum of Childhood. It is inspired by the Pokemon Go craze that took the world by storm in the summer of 2016. The GPS-based app enables the user to use the camera on their digital device to view Pokemon characters in front of them, and enter a parallel world.

McMurdo has digitally manipulated the faces of children's portraits from her daughter's class. The distortions remind me of Julie Cockburn's portraits, however McMurdo's shapes appear to be more varied. They remind me of the pixellated shapes of the Pokemon Go characters that they would encounter. 

The viewer is unable to see the child's complete face, because they are not completely there. These digital natives have both an offline and online existence.

I am really interested in McMurdo's approach to the impact of new technologies on children. Her other work includes Masks II, which  explores identity and play in a post-digital world. This will be useful, when studying the Digital Identities part of this course. 

Selfies. Are you for Real?

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Seconds after Sergio Ramos lifted the Champions League trophy, following Real Madrid's 4-1 victory over Juventus, he was holding a selfie stick to capture the moment (above). At first, this seems very bizarre, considering that the match is the most televised sporting event in the world. I'm sure he could ask someone to record it for him! It would appear as though the prize for Ramos is the up-close and personal recording on the podium, rather than holding the trophy. Unfortunately this inability to 'be present in the present' is all too familiar, with people transfixed at themselves on a small LCD screen, rather than fully experiencing the moment. I find this detachment from reality very worrying, since we're becoming desensitised from our surrounding environment. People are so used to being glued to their phone or tablet, that the only way they can participate in an event is to view themselves within a screen, by taking a selfie. 'If it's not photographed, then it didn't happen and I wasn't there,' kind of mentality. 

We live in an age of self-promotion. Digital cameras are so versatile, with very good image quality, that there isn't the need to rely on photographs from a third party. It would seem that it is much more beneficial to be in control of what is or isn't photographed. Furthermore, you have full control and rights over those images, which you can then distribute them in whatever way you please. You are in control of what is real, and what you don't feel is worth remembering.