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.


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No Likes
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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.


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