Assignment 5 – Tutor feedback and Reflection

Tutor Feedback

Tutor feedback was in the form of a telephone conversation which I was asked to take notes for and write up the feedback form for tutor signature.

The main points were as follows:

  • The assignment continues to show creativity and good development of the original idea
  • Make sure you focus on the critical point of the assignment. The key to success is in the detailed analysis of the popularity of your photographs
  • Don’t reveal the identity at the end of the project. keep it false
  • Consider what is important to the success of the project
  • Concentrate on your conceptual approach
  • Focus on the one clear and coherent direction
  • The output is ongoing and raises many questions. Reflect upon this

The conversation was very positive but my tutor did believe that I had gone off track a couple of times.

It was definitely not a good idea to reveal the identity of Sidney by the re wording of his profile and I have managed to revise this before he has been discovered. He is still anonymous and I have to agree that this is the right result.

It was also necessary to keep the study simple but delve into the depth of results.

The quality of my conclusion is excellent and the summary of good and bad moments in bullet form is effective and easy to digest.

There is still some work to be done to detail the questions raised and, if possible to reflect on the answers. This work will be added to the blog prior to submission.

Personal Reflection

The main reflection on assignment 5 is written at the end of the assignment writeup.

There was no course work prior to assignment 5 but a lot of reading was required and I opted to spend my time reading “Digital Identities – Creating and Communicating the Online Self”. Some of the text is directly relevant to social media and the false identity. Chapter 1 – Understanding identity Online: Social Networking, Chapter 5 – Identity, Internet and Globalization and Chapter 7 – Online Selves: Digital Addiction are the most relevant. They refer to performance, connection with other people and a lot about dealing in the “abstract”, in a void where people exist who you will never meet.

Are they all false as well? How many of them really exist?

I now have to decide whether to close Sidney down or whether to leave him out there and indeed help him to continue on his journey. The temptation is to carry on.



Assignment 6 – Pre-Assessment Tutorial

Colin Caygill – 506247 – Digital Image and Culture – November Assessment 2017



Following a telephone review with my tutor for assignments 5 and 6, I have revised this document to reflect the agreed procedure for submission of my work for assessment in November 2017.

Format for submission of work for assessment:

Printed Documents in Box

Project Overview

Assignment 1 Deliverable – 12 Photographs

Assignment 2 Deliverable – Final Book Entitled “Invisible Cities”

Assignment 3 Deliverable – Print of final version of Critical Essay

Assignment 4 Deliverable – Access to Sidney Caygill Facebook Account

Assignment 5 Deliverable – Access to Sidney  Caygill Facebook and Instagram Accounts

G Drive

Assignment 1- Tutor Formative Feedback

Assignment 1 – Response to Tutor Feedback and Reflection

Assignment 2 – Tutor Formative Feedback

Assignment 2 – Response to Tutor Feedback and Reflection


Assignment 3 – Tutor Formative Feedback

Assignment 3 – Response to Tutor Feedback and Reflection

Assignment 4 – Tutor Formative Feedback

Assignment 4 – Response to Tutor Feedback and Reflection

Assignment 5 – Tutor Formative Feedback

Assignment 5 – Response to Tutor feedback and Reflection

Assignment 6 – Tutor Formative Feedback

Assignment 6 – Response to Tutor Feedback and Reflection


The blog contains a writeup of all assignments, responses to all exercises and any research, comment or reflection throughout this project.

It is very important to read the blog in conjunction with the printed documents. It will not be possible to understand the assignment deliverables without reading the assignment blogs.

Facebook account:

Sidney Caygill

Instagram Account

Sidney Caygill


Checking and Rewriting Procedure

My first action was to print off all tutor reports to date, and all of my responses and reflections. I then wrote the tutor reports for assignments 5 and 6 for my tutor to agree and sign off. The final action was to write my own response to tutor reports 5 and 6 and my personal reflection of these two stages.

I then took a very careful look at the impact which these printed documents would have.

The remainder of my work will be submitted in the form of the blog and two internet social media accounts, facebook and instagram. These have been carefully evaluated by my tutor throughout the project. I have thought very carefully about how the blog and internet accounts are signposted so that the assessors have a trouble free ride. This will become apparent in the documentation.

The final exercise includes a detailed check of content and presentation of all assignments, exercises and other research based work including a very careful check to ensure that the correct categories have been identified for each section of the blog.


Work which has been re-presented

Major revisions have been made to Assignment 2 “The Archive” and Assignment 3 “Critical Essay”.

Minor revisions have been made to Assignment 1 “Combined Image”, Assignment 4 “Digital Identities 1” and Assignment 5 “Digital Identities 2”.

These have all taken my tutor’s comments into consideration.


I have carefully chosen the packaging (a black clamshell photo box) and quality of printing of the work to be inserted in the box and double checked that the right documents are in the right place on the G Drive.


There were a couple of points which I did not understand at the beginning of assignment 6 and it was only at the tutor review stage that these emerged.

My understanding from the “Guidelines for submission for formal assessment” was that printed copies were required for all the blog texts relating to assignments. However, when the word assignment is used, it is referring to the deliverable so in the case of assignment 1, it is not the wordpress text which goes into the box but the deliverable which is 12 photographs.

We also clarified that this document only needed to be a simple explanation of the way in which I was planning to complete the deliverables and the main point of assignment 6 is to help the student to assist with creating the best possible outcome.

I think that the idea of driving the student to consider presentation and quality of content is excellent and has pushed me one step further towards delivering an excellent result in the future. I now understand for the first time the importance of singling out the most important deliverables so that they can be given fair judgement.






Assignment 4 – Tutor Feedback and Reflection

Tutor Feedback

Tutor feedback was in the form of a telephone conversation which at this stage of the proceedings was very useful.

The key points which I picked out from the call were:

  • Be coherent with the output
  • As the output for this assignment is in the form of a facebook and instagram dialogue, provide a link to the facebook (and possibly the Instagram account) for the assessors to see the extent of the work.
  • The facebook dialogue is engaging and there is a creative element to the photos. Every photo is a piece of fiction. Evidencing of fictional work by Shovlin and Fontcuberta is worthwhile.
  • The project shows passion and personal engagement.

The written account was very positive. I am starting to push my practice and show an understanding of contemporary practice.

For the next stage (assignment 5) I need to produce more of the same, continuing to be experimental and although my referencing across to academic studies such as the book “Digital Identities” by Rob Cover is relevant and significant, there is no need to go into a deep academic analysis of my work at this level.

An important discussion was had on the output required for this assignment and it was agreed that because the whole project is in the form of social media the correct output would be the content of the facebook dialogue.

I was pleased to note that some of my anecdotal comments lightened the experience of the reader and added some of my personality into the text. “Try not to be too dry as an academic”

My tutor referred me to another fictitious project “The Afronauts” by Christina De Middel which, as it happens, I had the fortune to see at the Photographer’s Gallery when she was put forward for the Deutsche Borse Prize. I remember the affect that this exhibition had on me at the time. There is an element of surprise when the viewer finally realises that this is fiction, not reality. I have tried to create some of this element of surprise throughout this project and one of my key points for the next stage is to change my posting to give a more disturbing effect, perhaps by making stronger political statements.

Personal Reflection

When tackling a project like this it is important to maintain the context and to work towards containing the project within a fixed time period. The possibilities are endless. There is a whole world out there and it is not possible to deal with it all. So my response to the work so far is one of satisfaction but also frustration. I would like Sidney to have a hundred friends by now but I also want to limit contact to those who are relevant and that I have done.

I have communicated with some very good photographers and have grown my own work with the knowledge which they have given me.

Other work leading up to this assignment has given a vast scope of ideas for how to develop assignment 4. I hit on the idea of creating a digital identity from scratch very early in this period and fortunately started up the new facebook and instagram accounts early on because it has taken some time to get them established.

A lot of the work in this section is related to false identities and false information:

  • Avatars and alter egos
  • Memes

But there is also consideration given to “exploring the boundaries of contemporary photography”.

  • Miska Henner’s project – No Man’s Land
  • Barbara Kruger’s project – Untitled (We will never be seen and not heard)

My desire is that the work I have completed for assignments 4 and 5 will contribute towards this contemporary exploration.


Assignment 3 – Tutor Feedback and Reflection

Tutor Feedback

This feedback refers to the 2500 word critical essay to show my understanding of  the digital self.

The comments were very disappointing and so I needed to spend some time rethinking and rewriting the essay which I have now done and submitted to my tutor for further comment.

In the words of my tutor, the essay content is relevant and it is obvious that I have researched the subject well and found my own original references. The criticism is more around the fact that there are too many strands to this essay, that they are disjointed and that there is too much use of the references and not enough original thought. There is not enough reference to photography and therefore the question has not been properly responded to. There is also a need to be meticulous about referencing. In some cases this has been done well, in others there is a lapse in detail. The essay needs a proper introduction and conclusion showing my personal views, it needs more time spent on less subjects so that the essay can demonstrate depth and gravitas.

My approach to deal with the above issues was to print out the assignment and, using cut and paste, develop groups of relevant information. Once done I then took a ruthless look at culling the information which was less relevant, rewording the remaining details and starting to fill in additional detail, mainly from the existing references together with my own thoughts, making these thoughts clearer so that they stand out against the references.

My tutor pointed out in the detail, the subject matter which was compelling, where I had left the reader disappointed due to lack of detail – Effect of Kodak Brownie, The use of photographs can become a danger, references to Ritchin, my experiences in Rome. I have worked on these to make them more central to the essay.

I await my tutor’s response to the revised submission.

Personal Reflection

The tutor comments were extremely useful and having worked through the rewrite, I have to agree with the majority of them.

Essay writing is a little tedious to me and so I am always glad when the work is done. However, that is no excuse for rushing the work and I did thoroughly enjoy researching this subject (a subject which has not yet fully grown and about which there are a number of controversial opinions).

With reference to the rest of the work in the section leading up to the critical essay, the most compelling part of this work was the reference to Fred Ritchin’s essay “Towards a Hyperphotography”

The potential for the use of metadata to expand the relevance of a photograph is endless and we have not started to understand the power that this will have in the future. I have always, up to now, regarded metadata as being that detail which defines the date of a photograph or the shutter speed by which it was taken. To attach also a series of contradictory photos and text to question its integrity is extraordinary and could have powerful effect (damaging or otherwise).

The section on digitising atrocity (Abu Ghraib), death, controversy etc. was emotionally difficult to come to terms with and I was glad to get through this and on with photojournalism. The section was necessary and thought provoking and added to my knowledge of the photography of Joel Peter Witkin.

With reference to photojournalism, the most interesting part of this was the power of the citizen journalist, particularly in the cases of Alexander Chadwick (London bombings) and R Umar Abbasi (man about to die on the subway).

We are indeed all photographers now and we need to make the most of our opportunities in order to help our fellow citizens.




Assignment 5 – Digital Identities 2


This assignment follows on from Assignment 4 – Digital Identities 1 and draws together the conclusion of the experiment to create a digital identity using my paternal grandfather’s name, Sidney Caygill, in effect a false digital identity.

The two assignments should be read sequentially and in conjunction with Sidney’s Facebook and Instagram accounts. You can find Sidney’s homepage and profile simply by typing his name into the search bar of your own Facebook and Instagram accounts. For a full analysis of his activities, group memberships etc. it will be necessary to log in. The login details can be found on my shared G Drive on the assessment self evaluation sheet and in the folder entitled “Final Assignment”.

Instagram Setup

5 August 2017

Having set up the protocol for the Facebook account and made progress with developing Sidney’s identity I have now set up his Instagram account, posted a number of pictures and received comments from a number of interested parties.

My plan is to deal exclusively with portraits to start with and monitor progress before moving on to another subject if necessary. Unlike the previous exercise on Facebook where I preferred to remain anonymous, I am happy to follow and be followed by people who I know so a completely different dynamic will probably develop.

By uploading pictures via Gramblr, I have been able to pick up free likes on two photographs to get me going and my first picture (a self portrait) obtained 115 likes (including 75 free likes from Gramblr). So there are 40 people out there who are immediately interested in my idea. I need to decide whether this is a good or a bad result. The picture is neither topical or emotive but is of reasonable quality.

The first six pictures published were as follows:

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I am starting to understand the concept of Instagram where communication revolves entirely around photographs. When first connected the new recruit is encouraged to follow the most successful celebrities, Justin Bieber, Cristiano Ronaldo or whoever and the aim appears to be to compete with these names, or as close as one can get to celebrity. So Sidney still has a way to go. Some pictures in the past have achieved in excess of 3 million likes.

The next two screenshots show the current status of the Instagram account.

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Screenshot (37)

12 August 2017

Having worked on Instagram for a few days, I have now returned to Facebook to find 11 notifications and 3 friend requests.

Screenshot (39)

This is good because more people are starting to come to me rather than a need to chase others. I am continuing to be discerning and have rejected one of the three for that reason.

I have accepted two requests, people who look interesting. Nina Silinikachi is a mutual friend of Folio Graphy and Lukiman Jogia. She is French and has introduced me to the group “Prise-de-Vue”, a lot of people photographs, French landscapes and people in the landscape. The membership is essentially French but with some members from other countries.  Gesa Helms is from Glasgow (a rare addition from the UK). She seems political but with plenty of photographic backup.

Screenshot (40)

The pace is hotting up and I am having to move more quickly between Facebook and Instagram.

Today I experimented by uploading the same picture onto six different groups. My intention was to assess which groups are the most active so that I can target the busiest groups.

Unfortunately nobody liked the picture so I will have to get back to the drawing board.

14 August 2017

Today I read an article by Zuzanna Stanska in “Daily Art Daily”about how Cindy Sherman rocked the art world (two days ago) by posting self portraits onto Instagram.



This article fascinated me because it is exactly what I have been doing except of course that my pictures are nowhere near as engaging and also I am not a world authority on art.

I have also published two pictures onto four facebook groups to try to repeat the exercise which will tell me which group is the most active.

After 24 hours I have the following result:

Street Photography in the World        2

Only Street Photography                      3

Street People and Portraits                  5

Street Photography Club                      1

The result is still not conclusive but for a while I have seen Street People and Portraits as very busy and have picked up more of my friends from there than anywhere else. Looking at the activity on this site confirms my conclusion.

I made an effort with one of these photos in photoshop and Nik Software which has helped to make this one more popular than the other even though the other is technically superior and has a good composition and cropping. My next effort will be to investigate whether more extreme post production will have an impact.

21 August 2017

Today I have sorted out some of my best portraits over the last 2 or 3 years. I am showcasing them in Instagram and within the Facebook group “Street, people and portraits” which I had previously identified as one of the busy groups. I have researched hashtags for Instagram and will be using some of the top 30 to see if I can increase my following.

26 August 2017

The results of the portraits posted have been disappointing. These are some of my best photos but I do not seem to be reaching a wide enough audience (either that or my portraits are not well received).

Examples from Instagram:



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01 Russian Trader



03 Divine

1 Like


03 Annick & Adje

1 Like


01 Looking Up

1 Like

The number of likes for the first three pictures is false because I was given 75 free likes by Gramblr. The number of likes for the last three pictures is accurate and disappointing especially as I attached several hashtags to each. I have also collected a few new followers and have discovered that the hashtag “follow” encourages followers. The most interesting part of the exercise is that once 75 free likes have been given to each of three pictures the number of true likes increases significantly. So the best effort gained 125 likes, 75 free and 50 genuine. I have deduced from this that Instagram is a tactical game and does not always speak the truth. The more stardom one possesses, the more one is liked.

Examples from Facebook

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I am achieving 3 or 4 likes for each of my portraits but rarely any more. My conclusion is that the way to increase this is to achieve more friendships. My main fans are Jim Tulip and Folio Graphy, both excellent photographers so that is encouraging.

The next and final stage of this current investigation is to  start increasing political comment attached to my pictures. This is a particular passion of mine and I am looking forward to seeing a more effective approach.

I will now stop publishing on Instagram and concentrate on the Facebook groups “prise-de-vue” and “Street, People and Portraits”.

The subject will be the reaction of the “common” man to terrorism and I will use my series of pictures taken the weekend of the protests in Paris following the terror attack on the headquarters of Charlie Hebdo in January 2015.

I will be posting one picture per day on the French group “prise-de-vue” and sharing these with my other favourite group “Street, People and Portraits”.

The first post is as follows:

Screenshot (43)


Meanwhile Sidney has had three more approaches from ladies who appear to be prostitutes.

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Sidney is obviously a very tempting yet vulnerable candidate. I have rejected this request and interestingly, Facebook’s response to my rejection was as follows:

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Thanks Facebook, this comment was not helpful and I know if I report the incident via feedback, I will receive a standard reply which states that Facebook are unable to deal with all queries but thank you anyway.

28 August 2017

I have now posted six times on the subject of Je Suis Charlie.

Screenshot (51)A

This was the first post which drew a comment from Helene Coulon, communicating in French. The English translation is underneath and demonstrates significant passion.

My conclusion is that all the time I publish pictures with political comment, I am generating more interest than simply posting a photograph camera club style. Also, the stronger the political comment, the more likes can be achieved.

I am now starting to get more genuine comments. People are treating my subject seriously and this is more rewarding. I have considered making more outrageous comments but I am not comfortable with the idea of moving that far from reality. I am trying to achieve genuine responses to my own genuine feelings.

I have attempted to join three more serious political groups to continue my political comment but have not yet been accepted into the fold. It appears that at the moment I am being treated as a serious photographer but not as a political commentator. I am convinced that it would not take long to break into this group.

31 August 2017

An analysis of the last six posts on Facebook shows much improved interest and I am pleased that the following picture has achieved 12 likes to date, not because of the quality of the picture but because of the dialogue which is developing over the subject of “Je Suis Charlie” and the implications of terrorism throughout the world.

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Right at the end of this project, I  revised Sidney’s profile in Facebook. I wanted to give more detail about his identity without admitting to a false identity. The purpose was to investigate whether this will have any influence over his followers. The wording is as follows:

“I am a veteran of the first and second world wars. I am unfamiliar with the current digital culture and am trying to get my voice heard in this strange new society.

So far (end of September 2017) there has been no obvious reaction to this additional information and, following a long discussion with my tutor, I am questioning the reason for issuing this information within an artistic project which relies totally on anonymity. My conclusion is that like Fontcuberta and Shovlin in similar projects, it is wist to stay anonymous throughout.

Summary / Reflection
The purpose of this project was to investigate the role of social media when dealing with false identity and to look at the way in which facebook and instagram users operate in the context of the setting up of a digital identity for a person who had absolutely none. Many questions were asked and answered, relating to the human responses received from friends all over the world. The rate of development of these friendships was remarkable. There was never any serious conflict or unpleasantness which leads me to believe that the majority of the human race are good honest people, some very talented, some humble and some super confident but always willing to communicate the very best of themselves.
My main source of research for this project has been:
Cover, R. (2016). Digital Identities: Creating and Communicating the Digital Self: Elsevier.
“There is enormous value in paying attention to how identity can be seen to be ‘performed’ in one of the most popular, contemporary online platforms and practices – social networking. In an always connected and cloud driven communication environment identities are performed, articulated, represented , and negotiated in relation with those who are not necessarily physically present in our everyday lives but also those we engage with in the ‘networked social’ ” (Cover,R)
Certainly in Sidney’s case he has been given the opportunity to perform and the results have been successful.
The project has been an education in modern methods of communication, I have crossed the barriers of race, ethnicity, gender, geographical location and been allowed freedom of speech and freedom of photographic representation. I have mixed with people of common interest and with some people of opposite opinion.
And Sidney has developed his digital identity from nowhere to become a fictional character in a world which is a combination of reality and fiction. How much of the world of social media is fictional is a question unanswered. It will be difficult to establish in the future.
I feel I have made good friends and hope that none of these would be offended if they knew that I represented a fictional character. Just like those who play the game “Second Life”, I have started to live the character to the point where I do not know the difference between us. I am a reflection of my grandfather and I hope he would be proud of me.

The success of this project has been reliant upon my ability to disseminate information and analyse the data produced, for instance by the analysis of which posts have been successful and which have not in actual numbers.

This analysis has raised many questions already and the project is ongoing. It would be possible to take it in many directions but to start with I need to communicate more closely with the individuals I am already dealing with and extend my communication to a broader cross section of people, probably in other countries an with different interests.

What went well?
• The project was a pleasure to be involved with. It is tempting to continue with the project beyond the assessment date
• I met some excellent photographers and learned from them
• I learned a lot about facebook and instagram and their operation
• I learned a lot about the people who are passionate about facebook and instagram
• I was able to showcase my own photography
• Many of the stories and pictures moved me emotionally
• The flexibility of use of phone, tablet or PC at any time of day or night was beneficial
• The use of gramblr for instagram helped to parachute me into recognition

What went badly?
• It took a long time to build up momentum
• My work was interrupted by advertising
• I was approached by a number of questionable women
• The computer contracted a virus and there was a point where I was tempted to pay money to solve the problem
• Anonymity was almost broken because facebook discovered that the email address I had used for Sidney was similar to my own personal email address. Facebook then tried to integrate the two people, Sidney and myself. Next time he must have his own email address
• The three month period for this project was not long enough. It would have been better to start earlier

At this point it is time to wind up the project and submit for assessment in November 2017. I will keep the two accounts open until after assessment so that they can be viewed as the final presentation of my work.


Assignment 3 – Critical Essay (Revised)


What is your understanding of the “digital self” and what is the effect of our everyday use of photography upon it? Discuss using relevant case studies and published research.


On interrogation of the OCA student website resources section and an exhaustive trawl of internet references it became apparent that there is no fixed definition of ‘The Digital Self’. The definition of this new subject is still evolving.

This essay looks at some aspects of digital self and tries to investigate where photography fits into the equation.

The digital camera became available to the amateur as well as the professional around the turn of the century and so for a lot of people (including myself and my first digital Canon) an awareness of digital identity started to emerge around this time.

At the same time, online presence commenced in the form of internet banking, shopping, holiday booking and many other uses, all in isolation and relatively unsophisticated compared with today.

Today, photography is used by mobile phone users and on social networking sites in a powerful way and to a point where the users have become relaxed about their product and its influence over the mass population (either positive or negative). Photographs can be used as incriminating evidence against as well as positive reinforcement for.

The selfie has developed in astronomical proportions and is used in various forms as self marketing for young and old. The introduction of the Kodak Brownie in February 1900 (Wikipedia) introduced the concept of the snapshot to the masses. It is important to note that at this stage the Brownie was not used for selfies at all. Today the selfie has taken off to such an extent that on my recent visit to Rome it was almost impossible to view or to photograph the Trevi Fountain without the interruption of a selfie stick.

Photography is used for citizen journalism and in information streams where the photograph becomes a part of the total information package. The value of this total information package is only just starting to become apparent and has a long way to go.

Main Response

The Digital Self

A number of people have tried to define “Digital Self”. Zhao, 2005, Symbolic Interaction Journal wrote “Based on the analysis of teenagers’ online experience a present study shows that others on the internet constitute a distinctive looking glass that produces a digital self that differs from the self developed offline”.

That definition was made in 2005. The article was referring to online presence, mainly referring to the development of teenagers. Today there are approximately 3.84 billion internet users worldwide (Siri) . Siri found this information on from statistics dated June 2017 and this number constitutes 51% of the world’s population.

The point here is that the definition is changing rapidly, day by day. The last time I looked at the above statistic, 12 months ago, internet users were approximately 40% of the world’s population.

I prefer a simpler version of the definition of the Digital Self which is a Wikipedia definition “Our digital Self is many things and is in fact everything in our lives which requires some form of digital input”.


From the definition of “Digital Self” comes the question of whether we behave differently online than offline. The answer is almost definitely yes, and the evidence for this is growing rapidly.

“In early days our online activity did not have much influence over our real world persona. Things are very different today” (Premuzic, Sept 24 2015, Guardian, How different are your online and offline personalities).

In 2015, according to OFCOM, UK adults were spending an average of 20 hours per week online, twice as much as 10 years previously. As the internet has gained importance in our lives we have given up anonymity, and have needed to mask our true identity online. Now online activity is an integral part of our real life and so as it changes our outlook on life so our real life personality changes.

The course material for part 4 of Digital Image and Culture (Digital Identities) refers to social gaming and avatars under the heading of ‘The Digital Self’:
With the advent of social gaming and the creation of personal avatars, people participating in social media like to develop an image of themselves which is the image of how they wish to be presented rather than who they are. They may be personified as  a dog or a cat or perhaps a thing of beauty or an aggressive warrior. These images have become more and more sophisticated as time goes by. One of the stimulants of this idea was the online game ‘second life’ introduced in 2003. Apart from each individual being able to develop his / her fantasy world, artists, musicians and gamers are examples of people who have developed complex online avatars. Art has been sold, complex online projects have been developed and interactive games are abundant. For many people now this has become a very large part of their digital life and has also strayed into their real lives.

Social media and the internet

At least 30% of our time online is devoted to social networking and this is one area where the integration of photography becomes powerful. No social networker needs to have a great understanding of photographic technique to produce excellent photographs at the right quality for Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. An up to date mobile phone will take pictures that can be transmitted in seconds.

Old family photos are being digitised and published on social media alongside more recent photographs to show physical likenesses and to share historic information. This is adding to the power of communication and is particularly relevant when communicating with past school friends, college mates or work colleagues. The power of the photograph transmitted in this way is in the speed with which it can travel around the world and the number of people it can reach. One’s digital self can share a part of many images of this type.

Social networking has really reached a new level now with all of these sites able to generate political comment, artistic opinion and to include each individual within groups of common interest. It is easy to make friends and to follow celebrity and it is also easy to be influenced by sophisticated advertising techniques.

There is the opportunity for any individual to have an influence at any level in other individuals’ lives via their photography and comment.

Thomas Chamorro Premuzic writing in the Guardian brings us right up to date. He states :
‘Today more social interactions are initiated, maintained and furthered online than offline.
People do not interact digitally in the way they would interact in real life. At this point the digital self has well and truly broken away and started to develop a life of its own.
In this parallel existence, likeability is measured by the amount of ‘friends’ and ‘fans’ acquired. Users judge themselves and self esteem varies according to user sensitivity.’

The use of photographs can become a danger. The publisher will have lost track of whether or not the photographs are for public view or restricted (usually by default they become public) and will be unaware that photographs or text could be incriminating. e.g. information could be used by the press.
There is no doubt that people drop their guard when they are networking. Dr Premuzic believes that “this is mainly because you no longer need to acknowledge the physical presence of the person you are dealing with. All physical influence is removed”.
‘Humans are 80% visual creatures and crave for an image. Photos still say more to us and determine more whether we like someone or not, than a million words. This is how superficial people are: looks are all too-powerful and personality is a superficial second.’ (Premuzic, 2015, Guardian)
So when does social networking become dangerous?
The simple answer to this is that it becomes dangerous when it becomes addictive.

There are however benefits to social networking:
• Relationships are made more quickly
• Physical boundaries are eliminated
• There is a structured approach.
‘Social networking is to relationships what google is to knowledge. The websites are neither good or bad. It depends on what users do.’ (Premuzic)
The use of a photograph can be enlightening, cheerful, comical, powerfully impressive, confrontational, insulting, shocking or frightening.
Using social networking and therefore developing your digital self has become an essential part of life for many people. It helps all ages to communicate, to retrieve information, to gain employment, to share common interests but none of these devices or means have changed the fundamental reason, the core psychological motives underlying our relationship with others. We relate to people in order to get along or to get ahead and both motives are present in social networking contacts.

The Digital Camera

At the turn of the century the digital camera started to become a viable proposition for amateur as well as professional use. At this stage quality of picture was still poor but all could see the potential and worked hard to convert from analogue technology.

‘The era of cheap, lightweight digital cameras has meant that people who did not consider themselves photography buffs are now filling ever-larger hard drives with thousands of images from their lives’ (Williams, 2006, New York Times, Here I am taking my own pictures).

So the use of the digital camera has started to fill up a large percentage of the digital self in many cases. This has happened because of the miniaturisation of the camera from digital SLR down to electronic viewfinder and again down to tablet, mobile phone, watch and what next?


At the time of the introduction of the Kodak Brownie (1900), virtually no citizen photographer was known to have taken a self portrait. There appeared to be some form of moral reserve. Nowadays the selfie stick has been manufactured in millions and at tourist sites all around the world it is often impossible to view the sites because of a constant barrage of selfie sticks in the way. Selfies used to be for younger people but in a matter of a couple of years this has changed and even retired couples are taking to the scene.
Is this sudden increase in the interest in self portraiture explained by narcissism? One explanation of this change in attitude is put forward by Dr Arnett , a Fulbright scholar at the University of Copenhagen:
‘This is the idea that adolescents think people are more interested in them than they actually are, that people are always looking at them and taking note of what they are doing’
He felt this was due to the fact that adolescents have been treated differently from birth (with more respect) and generally have a greater self worth and that this self worth is starting to spread into other, older people, a sort of contagion. I think he was totally wrong with his assumptions around young people. We all have the desire to take and use the selfie for record purposes, for bragging rights and for self publication. It is only human nature.

The quality of modern day camera equipment and processing has also contributed to the rise of the selfie. Not only are the photographs more immediate, they are easy to manipulate. They can be shown close to perfection (airbrushed) or distorted in some other way.

Uses of Photography

Each individual has the ability to become a citizen journalist, recording current situations by smartphone (either still or video) and to provide this information to the press or to the police or legal system to assist with publicising an incident. Well known examples of this are:
Alexander Chadwick’s screen grab of the London tube passengers walking through the underground tunnel on 7/7.


R Umar Abbasi’s photograph of a Chinese man about to be killed by an oncoming train on the New York subway.

This removes the filter of a political press and can empower individuals giving them the ability to influence political strategies. The digital self is a powerful individual.

The threat of manipulation

In amongst all this freedom is a fear by many that the photograph, which when it was first invented was accepted as a true record of the situation recorded, is now so easy to manipulate that it is no longer possible to decipher its authenticity.



This famous picture by Robert Capa (Death of a loyalist soldier) taken during the Spanish Civil War is still today the subject of much disagreement about its authenticity. Rather than being a digital manipulation it is regarded by many as a set-up.

The opportunities for a set-up or a manipulation today are on a logarithmic scale compared with Capa’s valiant effort.

But the question today is “Does it matter?”. Although photography cannot be used in the same way to confirm a piece of information, it can be used in many other ways. It can be used to develop art, to create an avatar or a fictitious representation of whatever the digital self requires. It can also be used as part of an information flow and the use of information attached to a photograph or series of photographs is becoming more and more valuable.

Information streams

By using photographs and associating them with other information it is possible to pull information together quickly as described by Fred Ritchin in his essay ‘Toward a Hyperphotography’ (Ritchin, 2009, After Photography).
A picture is the central nucleus of an information stream which can describe as much information about a subject as required. To the picture can be attached further pictures which fully describe (or even contradict) the item. Other written information, a video or cross references to web addresses can also be attached to expand the story. All this can be achieved digitally using metadata. The digital self is now often thinking in hyperphotographic terms in order to pull together the truth of a story and to use this truth to positive effect. The negative effect could also be extracted if required. Photographs and text are so widely published that there is never a shortage of material which can be easily found.


In the last 20 years we have been introduced to the worldwide web, emailing, chat rooms, online shopping, smart phones, internet gambling, internet pornography, snapchat, facebook, twitter, instagram, linkedin, pinterest, youtube, texting, tweeting, sexting, imusic, online searching, online dating.
So, what is the motivation behind mass digital social networking at the personal level? What feeds our digital self? Is the current upsurge of social networking likely to crack soon or will it increase at the same (or a faster) pace?
Not surprisingly, we are all struggling with our own self identity. Now is the time to hone our digital self into a self that is closer to our true self in order to attain sanity with integrity. “Like it or not, we all have a digital self, a mask that we put on to engage the technological world” (Hicks, Aug 23 2010, Psychology Today)
Although a lot of the photography we use today appears to be becoming the norm, we cannot guarantee that it is fixed. The ability to manipulate images is continuing to develop and the miniaturisation of sophisticated digital techniques still has a long way to go. We have progressed from the Canon 5D to the Fuji XPRO to the iPhone 7. What is next for the citizen photographer and his user generated content?
Some see working within the digital self as an opportunity to develop their photographic creativity and certainly there are many creative photographs, self portraits or other, moving around the world. Fred Ritchin, in his book “After Photography” goes one step further:
“In a funny way I don’t see this as photography any more. It’s communication. It’s all an extension of cell phones, texting and emailing. The photograph becomes a part of the total information flow.”

Whatever one’s view of the direction in which photography is moving, one thing is certain, that we do not know how human reaction to future photographs and photographic techniques will develop. My personal belief is that we should embrace all forms of output, not only the traditional methods for printed output, use in documentation etc. but also the various social media formats, use of hyperphotography, video output and other innovative formats and engage in this new form of communication which is helping us with making contacts, meeting friends and keeping up with our own interest groups.

These all help to consolidate a healthy digital identity.

Reference List
Zhao. S. (2005) Symbolic Interaction Journal: The Digital Self: Through the Looking Glass of Telecopresent Others
OCA Course Material, Graphic Design GD2, p.103: How to B
Chamorro-Premuzic. (2015) The Guardian: How different are your online and offline personalities.
Chamorro-Premuzic. ((2017) Wonderlancer: The Digital Self (an exclusive interview with renowned psychologist Dr. Thomas Chamorro-Premuzic
Williams. A. (2006), New York Times: Here I am taking my own pictures
Ritchin.F. (2009) After Photography: Towards a Hyperphotography. WW Norton
Gillett. F. (2013) The Guardian: Personal cloud services and the battle to serve your digital self
Hicks. T. (2010) Psychology Today: Understanding and creating your digital self
Williams. Z. (2016) The Guardian: Me! Me! Me! Are we living through a narcissism epidemic?
Miles. L. (2017) IET Engineering Communities: Getting your Digital Self in Order

Assignment 4 – Digital Identities 1


Develop a project around the theme of identity within the current digital climate. This could be an autobiographical exploration examining how you relate to digital culture, or it could be a more critical examination of an aspect of digital culture.

The course guidance  suggests a brainstorm diagram / mind map of possible ideas as the start point. My brainstorm diagram in its rough form is included below.


Mind Map001A


What became immediately apparent was that the subject Digital Identity is vast and expanding. The more I thought about it, the more ideas came to mind. It will be extremely important to narrow down the subject to something which is achievable and where I will have a chance to bring in my own personal input, opinion and comment.

My next move was to sit down with a friend (professional photographer) and talk through potential ideas. Refer to the following link for details of this preliminary discussion: Part 4 – Digital Identities

The idea I have come up with is to create false Facebook and Instagram accounts and to attempt to create a digital identity for a person who has only just been created. The accounts are now set up in the name of my paternal grandfather Sidney Caygill and my first thoughts are that this will serve two main purposes:

  1. To allow me to broadcast the voice of how I believe my grandfather would have spoken had he been alive today. (he died in the early 1960s)
  2. To use these forums to publish my own photographs which would be a combination of my best quality pictures mixed in with more instantaneous, up to the minute pictures much in the style of the archetypal ‘facbebooker’ of today.

So my fantasy being would be similar to an avatar but with a real history and real views and expressions blended in with the reality of today’s photography (including video).

My very first screengrab shows Sidney’s initial setup. This was initially made on the IPhone.

Screenshot A

The first thought was to change the profile picture (a snap taken on the iPhone of myself.

I decided that any self portrait should be presented as Sidney’s self portrait and that it would become obvious over time that Sidney and Colin are one and the same.

The research I have done to date on Second life and the work of Robbie Cooper, Gina Lundy, Jim Naughton and Nikki S Lee (ref. Course Material page 85, Avatars and Alter Egos) have given some insight into how I should present myself as somebody else. However a lot of the development of the idea can only be made over time. The project is experimental and success can not be guaranteed.

11 May 2017

I am currently at the start point and a lot of planning has gone into how and what to publish. It will be necessary to publish pretty well daily and to approach the online community in a manner which will encourage them to follow and like (or dislike) what I say and do. It is important to remain anonymous for as long as I can, otherwise I will be constantly driven towards people who I know and this will curtail the freedom which I intend to use to the full.

2 June 2017

The difficulty with creating a new identity totally unrelated to one’s current identity is where to start. After a few days with no contact with the outside world, I started to work on the Facebook account and the very first move was to set up a profile, including a profile photo and create a set of personal favourite photographs.

Screenshot A(3)



Then I spent some time considering which groups to join. This could be a useful outlet for publishing my photographs and following and making friends. The first two groups I tried to join did not respond and I thought this was because my profile was a bit thin and I had no friends so I attempted to join about 15 Photographic groups and responses started to flow. I am currently a member of ten photographic groups and have had one friend request so far.

Screenshot A(1)

The next move is to start publishing on the group facebook pages and to start interacting with the users.

Screenshot A(2)


Using the activity log it is possible to see how many likes, friends and followers are being developed and at what speed.

2 June 2017

I have copied the above part of the blog (provisional) to my Tutor for comment / approval of the idea.

8 June 2017

The response is really positive and having passed through a period of anxiety, this gives me the motivation to proceed with the project:

Chris Coekin

“Thanks for this. I really like the idea and that you could produce an engaging project. There is lots of room to be creative and consider various narratives, serious and playful. I think that joining established associations is a good idea and that interface and communication with something factual adds an interesting element. As you have said looking at the notion of Avatars is good. I’d also suggest that you look at the artists below who have constructed fictional people and narratives within their work, this may be of help.

Joan Fontcuberta:
(Holy Innocence – difficult to find much info)

Jamie Shovlin  Naomi (V Jelish etc)”

10 / 11 June 2017

With ten established facebook groups, I have now started to post some of my better quality photographs relating to these groups.

This is a good exercise and one which will lead me to consider very carefully what I like, what excites me and to help find my voice.

I have posted one picture on each of seven groups and within 24 hours have received 51 likes.


20110309 062A
20150320 007 Raw Convert
20150520 XPRO 207A
20161001 XPRO 101A
20150720 XPRO 086
No Likes
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20160415 XPRO 038A


So now it is possible to start analysing popularity which may lead to a more analytical approach to what stimulates a response and what is unsuccessful. I can add these results to my own feelings in order to make a judgement on which way my photography postings should go. I feel this is part of the development of my personal voice. Dealing with this type of photography is exciting me.

It will also help to find out which groups are active and which are not in order to publish my work with the maximum exposure.

I am still pondering over which groups to work with and which people to invite to be friends. I do not want to upset any people by appearing as a dangerous character but I do want to probe deeply into the activities of a few people. Should I target people whose pictures I respect or be a little more flippant and target anybody with an interesting background?

14 June 2017

The woman in green has now been renamed “La Dame en Vert” by Isabelle Collington of the Bibliotheque Nationale de France. She has been put onto the Street Photography Club gallery because of her high popularity. Not viral but definitely a positive step for Sidney.


Screenshot (18)A


I have still not made any friends but have had six friend requests by email, none of which have shown up on my facebook page. On interrogating these names it started to appear that these requests were questionable, one in particular offering prostitution. Now Sidney may be an old man with no friends but does not intend to pursue prostitution as an option.

After looking up this one person (who had 40 or 50 friends herself, I then contracted a computer virus or some sort of infringement of a firewall and spent the next 48 hours putting my computer back together. My grandfather would have been horrified.

Once the following message had been cleared I was back to normal:

Screenshot (1)

I have today made two friend requests, to people who have given the lady in green a “Love” signal and I have started to follow three people who gave her a “Like” signal. This is a test to see whether people will make friends without knowing me (Sidney).

My first friend is Jim Tulip from Thailand.

Screenshot (20)

26 June 2017

Sidney now has three friends, Jim Tulip, Folio Graphy and Tony Tsai. He has now issued a further set of pictures on the various groups and has madem one further friend request. To me it is very important not to choose just anybody as friends but to be selective based on their photographic ability and their personality. He has not had to reject anybody yet or to unfriend them but remains cautious about who to deal with. Sidney has had more friend requests from what appear to be bogus women of ill repute and has been involved in another questionable (infectious) message which he was more prepared to get rid of than last time.

2 July 2017

Sidney has posted more pictures, mainly street photography and portraits and now has 5 friends and an interesting quality circle of friends / information.

I have also investigated the possibility of using Instagram in the same way. Instagram is new to me and it appears at first sight that, owing to the fact that there are no groups, I will have to take a different approach to becoming a part of the community.

I propose to publish a starter pack of photographs and apply hashtags such as photographs, photography, street photography, portraits or whatever subject I decide to promote and in that way to gain interest and hopefully friendships. I have downloaded Gramblr onto my system and may need to use the power that they can provide by buying likes and spreading them around.

The other piece of work I have been working on is to research others who have involved themselves in false identity in the name of art.

My tutor has referred me to Joan Fontcuberta’s false negatives:

Fontcuberta has made a career of many hoaxes. He invented the story of the Russian spaceman and his dog, hit by a meteorite in space and floating around for ever without being reported. The story was exposed on Spanish TV by Iker Jimenez who believed it to be real. The truth was finally exposed which upset the Russian authorities. Or did it?

Fontcuberta saw this as art and the most pressing question which it exposes is:

How can we know what is real and what is not?

Also Joan Fontcuberta’s Holy Innocence:

Fontcuberta pretended to be a priest and communicated with an internet swindler. The result is a book based on demonstrating the potential of working entirely with spam and junk mail.

His work has been described as a “pedagogy of doubt protecting us from the disease of manipulation”.

And Jamie Shovlin’s various exhibitions for instance at the Saatchi Gallery:

Naomi V Jelish  is a sad story about a fictitious girl. The name is an anagram of Jamie Shovlin

This is the sad story of a very talented 13 year old who disappeared together with her family when her father died. The story was told in an exhibition in London. Her strange tale was explained to visitors on labels, in newspaper cuttings, photographs, school reports and through personal mementoes.

It was not until later that the story was found to be a hoax.

The question from these references is how can I develop my own myth / fantasy with reference to these other fictitious cases?

23 July 2017

“Our contemporary culture of communication is increasingly dominated by visual representation and the flow and exchange of high quality visual images” (Giroux 2004 p 789)

At this stage I am considering what outcomes I would like to achieve. I am trying to cross all social barriers, in particular gender, race, ethnicity, class and nationality.

The book “Digital Identities by Rob Cover will help me to explore these potential barriers before I move on with the project.



This first stage of the final assignment has reached an interesting point and has become compulsive as an exercise to the point that it is taking up too much of my time and needs to be controlled.

It has not been without its difficulties. It has taken a long time to get started and one of my successes was that I opened up the Instagram and facebook accounts well in advance and overcame any teething problems before the project really got underway.

Taking the risk and not knowing where I was going to start with had its long term advantage because the product is now compelling enough to engage the viewer who now wants to know more.

It was also essential although I did not know it at the time to make Sidney anonymous so that he could go out with a totally fresh mind and deal with the people he chose to deal with.

If time had allowed I would have liked to investigate other types of group apart from street photography fanatics but perhaps, as I am often told, I was right to keep the brief fairly narrow so that I can drill down further in the detail. This lesson I learned from assignment 3 – Critical Essay – where I tried to cover too much material in too short a piece.

It has been a pleasure dealing with the people I have met and I look forward to developing those relationships and introducing some new elements at the next stage, assignment 5.

Exercise 4.4 – The Selfie

What does the phenomenon of the selfie tell us about how photography is popularly used nowadays?

A selfie is a self-portrait photograph, typically taken with a digital camera or camera phone held in the hand or supported by a selfie stick. (Wikipedia)

The selfie was named as word of the year by Oxford English Dictionaries in 2013. Although the Wikipedia definition refers only to a hand held digital photograph, the definition of the selfie is now expanding to encompass more versions of the self portrait. It is at least a sub-category of self portrait and has been compared by scholars (, Alise Tifentale, The City University of New York)  with the early photographs, for example Hippolyte Bayard’s “Portrait of a Drowned Man (1840)”.


The selfie has been a part of the recent photographic revolution where digital cameras can be tied into the internet mainly by social media. This has encouraged the transmission of digital photographs on a huge scale. As an example the selfie in 2013 was responsible for 4% of all the photographs posted on Instagram ( This is a large but not necessarily dominant percentage.

The selfie has been popularly used to keep the image of a person in the minds of many. This is a useful tool for self publicists such as celebrities of all kinds and so the majority of selfies show a brand which seeks social rewards. The selfie would normally demonstrate positive, happy, accomplished, proud, well dressed, seductive or sexy.



Fawad Khan

It is rare that selfies show pictures of couch potatoes or people in ugly leggings. probably one in a hundred.


But the selfie can be used to generate other responses, perhaps shock or fear or celebrity.

The Abu Ghraib photographs have been tabled in many instances and Susan Sontag’s item in the New York Times “Regarding the Torture of Others” debates very clearly whether the atrocity was the taking of the photographs or the act of war by the American Government but the most revealing photograph, taken of Lynndie England and a group of the prisoners was to all intents and purposes a selfie and can be found under the title #selfie in most social media:



Referring back to earlier studies on Memes (Journal of Visual Culture, Limor Shifman), the tourist guy, Peter Guzli, used a selfie and inserted it into a world event, in this case the destruction of the twin towers New York, setting off a whole lot of copycat memes:


So there are many ways of using selfies to publicise events or to gain fame by promoting yourself to “breaking news” (Paradigm Shift).

The selfe is continuously being used to prove current news items and is often the first picture to be seen in breaking news reducing the power of the traditional photojournalist. There are millions of photojournalists in the world today and although only a small amount of their pictures make their way towards the newspapers and TV channels, a vast amount of the information is transmitted as news via twitter, facebook, instagram etc. and this is becoming the news of the future. (ref. Donald Trump’s many efforts to bypass the American news media). These photographs, whether political, comical or informative,  are viewed very quickly by millions of “followers” and transmitted from “friend” to “friend” to become the news of the day.

Reference List

Tifentale, A. (2013) Making Sense of the “Masturbation of Self Image” and “Virtual Mini-Me”. City University of New York

Shifman, L. (2013) Journal of Visual Culture. The cultural Logic of Photo-Based Meme Genres. Sage Publications

Sontag, S. (2004) Regarding the torture of Others. New York Times Magazine

Cover, R (2016) Digital Identities – Creating and Communicating the Online Self. Nikki Levy



The Selfie: Making sense of the “Masturbation of Self-Image” and the “Virtual Mini-Me”

These are notes about an article by Alise Tifentale, The Graduate Centre, City University of New York

Selfie City and the Networked Camera (intro)

Selfiecity is a research project led by Dr Lev Manovich as an attempt to make sense of a multitude of selfies posted on Instagram.

What could a group of selfies taken in a specific city say about that city? Could they also help in defining social media for the future? Selfies suggest new approaches to studies of vernacular photography.

A selfie is a form of self expression as well as a communal and social practice.

The study looked at selfies taken in Bangkok, Berlin, Moscow, New York and Sao Paulo.

640 selfies were studied from each city.

Why do Selfies Matter?

By posting selfies, people keep their image in other people’s minds. They are used to post a specific impression of oneself (seeking social rewards). We now all behave as brands and the selfie is simply brand advertising. It is an opportunity to position ourselves. Trying to sell the best version of #me. Positive, happy, accomplished, proud, well-dressed, seductive or sexy.

So, selfies are a means of self expression, a construction of a positive image, a tool of self promotion, a cry for attention or love, a way to express a sense of belonging to a community.

These are the majority and then there are the oddballs but it is rare that selfies contain pictures of couch potatoes or people in ugly leggings.

On Instagram, selfies are not everything. Only approximately 4% of all photographs posted are selfies.

Selfie of old and new genre of photography

The selfie can be describes as an emerging sub-genre of self portraiture. The first acclaimed example of an artistic self portrait was Hippolyte Bayard’s Self-Portrait of a Drowned Man (1840). Traditionally self portraits outdoors were taken next to a classical or Egyptian ruin. Indoors a mirror was often used or with a plain (studio) background. For today’s self portraits, the background choices are endless.

Why Instagram Matters

In 2013 there were 150 million Instagram users. the population of the world was 7.1 billion so Instagram users are a fairly small percentage. Mainly smartphone users and average age 23. But Instagram automatically adds geospacial information and time stamps which are important for this study. All pictures are square. 612×612 and we can view it as an archive in the process of becoming. Unfinished, live and living.

Art of the Masses

The selfie is the vernacular of the 21st century. It has already entered the museum and the art world. The video installation National #Selfie Portrait Gallery was a fine example. The artworks are often presented as large sets of images. This raises the question “Are all selfies art?” Perhaps they are to the masses if not to the conservatives.

Taking a snapshot of a paradigm shift

Since the connection of the smartphone to the internet, the practise and experience of everyday photography have become more important than the pictures themselves. Social media has created an enormous paradigm shift in what types of stories are considered “breaking news”. It may be the home video of a baby performing a particular trick. The simplicity of online sharing of images taken with smartphone is one of the factors that contributes to the shift.


Selfiecity reaches into different fields of enquiry. The project is about photography and self-portraiture. Yet it is as much about measuring the limits of the latest software designed to analyse large amounts of visual information. The project views social media as a vehicle of voluntary interpersonal communication, thus becoming a study of human behaviour.

note: The term #selfie was first used on Instagram on November 19 2013. The first hashtag was used on Instagram on January 27 2011.


Regarding the Torture of Others

Article in NY Times by Susan Sontag, May 23 2004 (Link 7)

This article refers to the photographs taken in Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq (originally Sadam Hussein’s most infamous prison).

When these photographs were brought to the attention of the general public, the Bush administration started by trying to limit a PR disaster. But they referred only to the photographs. Sontag was more interested in the crime of what they depict rather than the photographs themselves. In her view the pictures showed the results of torture not just the results of humiliation as described by the US government. An admission of torture would nullify America’s right to undertake unilateral action on the world stage.

It is unusual for the perpetrators to include themselves in photographs of the victims of war. In Nazi Germany there were many cases where the Germans photographed the victims of war for their own personal benefit but they never included themselves in the pictures. there were pictures in the 1880s and 1930s of white Americans grinning beneath the naked mutilated bodies of black men and women but these were regarded as justifiable at the time.

Where once photographing war was the province of photojournalists, now the soldiers themselves are all photographers, swapping images, transmitting photographs by email and (today) social media. Today the photographs play a different role, more to transmit information than to preserve and keep in an album.

Today there are many instances where individuals log every aspect of their lives down to the act of brushing their teeth. This is a photographic record just like the soldier’s record of an atrocity at war, which today cannot be avoided.

When transmitted, the pictures are usually there to describe “fun” contrary to the attempt by George Bush to show the American efforts as the opposite. And there are many instances in American life today where fun has been extended to the unnatural – pornography, video games of killing etc. Easy delight in violence and sexual humiliation appears to have grown. Is it fun whether it is real or a fantasy? To stack naked men was regarded by many as a college prank.

The effect that the pictures had on the Bush administration was much more powerful than the many words which had been written before them because they were impossible to cover up. Words can be hidden. Photographs can not. The government tried to justify the humiliation saying that it would only happen to the criminals, the murderers of American soldiers but in fact a lot of these victims had committed no crime. they were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Governments are still trying to suppress these photographs and there are many more photographs and videos which, as yet, have not been published.

However painful these pictures are to succeeding governments of all countries they will be unstoppable and a contributor to the shape of world politics going forward.