Category: ASSIGNMENTS

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.

 

Advertisements

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

Blog: Colin506247.wordpress.com

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.

Presentation

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.

Reflection

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

Introduction

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:

20130424 033

116 Likes

 

20130508 012A

8 Likes

 

20130501 224

5 Likes

 

20130508 041A

7 Likes

 

IMG_0191[1]A

93 Likes

 

20130421 026A

10 Likes

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.

Screenshot (35)

 

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.

 

cindyshermanfeat-800x420-620x326[1]

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:

125 Likes

 

004B Raw Convert

91 Likes

 

01 Russian Trader

98 Likes

 

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

CC Lorenzo

2 Likes

 

20140811 162

4 Likes

 

20140819 270 Raw ConvertA

3 Likes

20160125 019 Raw Convert 12x10 Print

4 Likes

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.

Screenshot (46)

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:

Screenshot (48A)

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.

Screenshot (52)

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)

Question

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.

Introduction

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 internetworldstats.com 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”.

Behaviour

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?

Selfie

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.

24623015_cf5eb20d6d_z[1]

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

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.

 

Capa_Death_of_a_Loyalist_Soldier[1]

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.

Conclusion

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:
https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2014/jul/08/joan-fontcuberta-stranger-than-fiction
(Holy Innocence – difficult to find much info)
http://www.dalpine.com/en/book/holly-innocence

Jamie Shovlin  Naomi (V Jelish etc)
http://www.saatchigallery.com/artists/jamie_shovlin.htm”

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
3 Likes
20150320 007 Raw Convert
2 Likes
20150520 XPRO 207A
3 Likes
20161001 XPRO 101A
1Like
20150720 XPRO 086
No Likes
20170126 156
5 Likes
20160415 XPRO 038A
37 Likes

 

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:

https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2014/jul/08/joan-fontcuberta-stranger-than-fiction

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:

http://www.dalpine.com/en/book/holly-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:
http://www.saatchigallery.com/artists/jamie_shovlin.htm

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.

 

Reflection

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.

Part 4 – Digital Identities

Wikipedia Definition – “A digital identity is information on an entity used by computer systems to represent an external agent. That agent may be a person, organisation, application or device.”

An alternative to this which is much more palatable to me is “The entire collection of information generated by a person’s online activity. This includes usernames, passwords, online search activities, birthdate, social security and purchasing history. Especially where this information is publicly available, and can be used by others to discover that person’s civil identity, in the wider sense a digital identity is a version or facet of a person’s social identity.”

The Digital Self

Art provides opportunity for people to represent themselves.

Photography started with the “carte de visite” leading to the self portrait and then to the selfie.  The modern day equivalent of the carte de visite is the computer data which makes up a personal profile on, say, facebook or Instagram (or in business terms, linkedin) – photo, writeup, list of interest, contact details.

Avatars and Alter Egos

There are many examples of false identities being used on the internet. Often this is just a self flattering email address or an exotic chatroom username.

Second Life

The online game, second life, allows for the opportunity to develop alternative digital persona so that a person can blur the real and the imaginary. It is possible to create a personal 3-D environment and visit others:

Artists digitise work, exhibit and market to others.

Musicians digitise their performances.

The human psyche is multi faceted. Id / Ego / Super Ego.

Does super ego relate to digital self?  Not really, as digital self is more contrived than perfect.

After a detailed look at some of the characters in second life, my ideas are developing to use the basis of this detail to write the answer to exercise 4.1.

“Write an entry in your learning log (up to 500 words) about the creation of false or alternative identities online. “

This will be developed in the next blog.

Assignment 4 Planning

At this early stage of part 4, I have to consider ideas for assignment 4 – Digital Identities 1.
Idea: Take a person or group of people. Create a one minute video of each (say three total) describing their digital identity. Photograph them in their working environment and at leisure.
Possibly set up a website to display the results.

But first I need to log my discussion with Richard Weston (professional photographer and friend) relating to Assignment 4 planning.

Following my own personal brainstorm on the subject of Digital Identities, I showed Richard a rough diagram as follows:

Mind Map001A

The discussion started with an analysis of the diagram looking at groups of ideas which may be of interest. It was important to choose a subject which I was passionate about. The first idea was to interview various people and discuss their digital identity producing short video clips about each one. This was my original idea but we also talked about false identities and avatars and, influenced by the course material referring to the avatars in “second life” we started to come towards the idea of a web based exercise looking at Facebook and Instagram. we talked about different approaches on facebook and considered whether there was a particular behaviour which would be of interest. I have a nephew who is autistic and who gains tremendous strength from the facebook community. Would that be a good subject to study?

But our conversation kept returning to false identities and in the end we agreed that the project should be based on setting up a new identity within Facebook and Instagram and monitoring how a digital identity could be developed from nothing.

The blog Assignment 4 – Digital Identities 1 continues from this point.

 

 

 

 

Assignment 3 -Critical Essay

Question

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.

Response

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 and, as “The Symbolic Interaction Journal” put it:

‘The impact of others in telecopresence on the formation of self has not been well studied’ (Zhao, 2005, Symbolic Interaction Journal)

Zhao goes on to try to define digital self by stating:

‘Based on the analysis of teenagers’ online experience, the present study shows that others on the internet constitute a distinctive “looking glass” that produces a “digital self” that differs from the self formed offline’

This definition was made in 2005, nearly twelve years ago. How have things changed since then? This article was referring to online presence, mainly referring to the development of teenagers. Today, there are 3.26 billion internet users, approximately 40% of the world’s population. 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 amateurs (and professionals) could see the potential and worked hard to convert from analogue technology. The fax machine started to die out and the digital scan came in. Photocopiers worked in colour as well as black and white. Telephone banking turned into online banking. Shopping was no longer about visiting the shops. Holidays were no longer booked through travel agents by asking them to telephone a resort and an airline or shipping company.

These changes have all contributed towards the formation of the digital self, a concept which is growing rapidly.

OCA course material for Graphic Design GD2 entitled “How to B” puts it well:

‘ We’re all digital now. In many parts of daily life the digital way is now the norm. Life is unthinkable without our digital life-support systems of smart software and sleek gismos’ (Graphic Design GD2, p.103)

So our digital self is many things and is in fact everything in our lives which requires some form of digital input. The majority of this is our life online but do we behave differently online to offline?

‘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.

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, Instagram. An up to date mobile phone will take pictures that can be transmitted in seconds.

Apart from social networking, the mobile phone can be used by adults or children to provide photographs which illustrate our desired identity (e.g. for selling on ebay) , for recording everyday activities (on the spot) for use as citizen journalism, for identifying information all around us rather than writing it down (a quick photograph of the calorie count on the back of a cornflake packet) or for recording information useful for insurance claims, proof of location or who we are with. All this forms part of the digital self.

The use of video is now also expanding exponentially and this adds the parameters of movement and sound.

But it’s not only about the photographs which we take, it’s also about the millions of images we are subjected to continuously. An early piece of work within this course was to photograph every photograph seen in a one day period Exposure Exercise. The number of photographs ran into hundreds and the exercise ended up as quite exhausting. The influence, sometimes sub conscious, of these photographs on the self is immense.

Once again 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’

If this is true, and it is certainly true for some people, does this mean that we have reached “digital saturation” or is there further to go? Digital saturation could be a little like compassion fatigue and have a negative impact on future generations.

For now, Premuzic says:

‘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’ (Premuzic)

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.’

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.

Another enormous upsurge springing from the digital self is the ease with which people manage to publish their own photograph.

‘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)

With the introduction of the Kodak Brownie, virtually no citizen photographer was known to take 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. ref.my recent visit to the Trevi Fountain in Rome. 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. This self worth is starting to spread into other, older people, a sort of contagion.

Jim Taylor, a trend consultant with the Harrison Group in Waterbury, Connecticut was struck by the element of self marketing in adolescents.

‘When I was a kid I didn’t want my picture taken’

‘But these kids are fabulous self marketers’

They can use this to confirm their identity and convince themselves of their status in society. They are out partying, taking photographs, eating well, doing exciting things.

The quality of modern day camera equipment and processing has also have 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.

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.

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. It may be a dog or a cat, it may be 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. 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 self and has also strayed into their real lives.

Old family photos are being digitised and published on social media alongside more recent photographs for comedy, to show physical likenesses, 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 of these images.

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.

So where does all this information go? Frank Gillett writes in the Guardian about the battle to serve your digital self. Cloud technologies account for between 60 and 70% of all stored digital data (personal or work stuff). This includes files, contacts, photos, music and videos. All the companies involved, Apple’s icloud, Microsoft’s Sky Drive, Google Drive and Dropbox, to name a few, are currently jockeying for position in the market and many of us are currently being targeted to use their product, often without realising it. At the same time we can join up for Apple Music, Spotify or Napster. These are all becoming part of our digital footprint, our digital self.

Based on current work carried out at Forrester, Cambridge Massachussetts, The battle to serve our digital selves is expected to unfold over the next six years (no sooner). Competitors, big and little, are in the race but none has a head start. ‘Individuals will come to be defined as much by where they store their digital selves as what their nationality is. Will you become a Google, ABT, a Carrefour or a Baidu? Your choices will remake the power dynamic of the online world.’

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.”

 

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 2 – Revised

Introduction

The work produced for assignment 2 was adequate but not exceptional. This has led me to reconsider the content in terms of interest, originality and presentation style. I have decided that blurred images would suit very well the literary work “Invisible Cities” by Italo Calvino. This is a book first recommended by Peter Fraser during a talk at the Open Eye Gallery in Liverpool a couple of years ago.  I have read it twice already and find it a constant source of inspiration. Fraser talks of photographing from the unconscious, a practice which I have tried to follow on occasions. It is as if Calvino wrote the  book from the unconscious with remarkable success.

Calvino writes of a series of conversations between Kublai Khan and Marco Polo (13/14 century). The story goes that Marco, his father and uncle were commissioned by Khan to act as his advisers on matters of the western world. They moved from their home town of Venice and lived in Xanadu, the summer capital of Khan’s Yuan Empire for many years and later on Marco Polo was asked to travel to lands far and wide to discover unknown cities. Calvino’s book describes Marco Polo’s conversations with Kublai Khan on returning from these Cities (55 in total). The descriptions are sometimes vague and often unbelievable, leading the reader to wonder whether they all really existed. It is a series of riddles which both fascinated and frustrated Khan. One theory is that the descriptions are simply parts of Venice which Polo knew so well but it is also known (or at least believed) that he travelled widely in China and branched out into such countries as Burma, India and Tibet. So it is quite possible that many of his stories had a true foundation.

Using this inspiration, my plan is to create a photobook in modern day style, probably coloured pictures, which describes some of the cities of today which would be discovered by Marco Polo if he lived in this era.

Research

I am trying to look at this project through the eyes of an Architect and to imagine some of the challenges he would encounter whilst trying to create a new city in this modern world. This subject is topical for the UK following the recent announcement that new garden villages are to be created to help deal with today’s population issues. So I am looking through the eyes of a British Architect.

The previous assignment was a collection of blurred images from various Flickr groups. This time I will widen my search to include such sources as Artsy and to look at the government proposals for the new garden villages. The whole project raises serious environmental issues as highlighted recently by David Attenborough in Planet Earth 2.

Garden Villages

The 14 new garden villages will have access to £6m of government money over the next two years. These developments would include schools, health and shopping improvements.

_93204326_harlow21

Proposed Garden Town on the Essex Herefordshire Border

So it is true that governments in a small or in a big way are always looking to improve their estate and so it was with Kublai Khan.

From Manila to Manhattan

An article released by “Artsy” shows proposals for 2017 for ten world beating designs of buildings in various countries of the world. It is entitled “From Manila to Manhattan, These new buildings will define architecture in 2017”.

vfqv5ozm

City Center Tower, Manila – Architect – Carlos Anaiz

 

Z

Elbphilharmonie, Hamburg – Architect – Hertzog & de Meuron

These buildings in Hamburg, Manila, Rio de Janeiro, New York, Cape Coast, London, Berlin, Houston and Paris will have to wait another day to realise their success (or failure) but they are certainly exciting examples of 21st century architecture and would have given Marco Polo much food for thought.

Seven Utopian Experiments

Another article by Artsy shows seven utopian experiments from Le Corbusier’s Radiant city to a ghost town in China. The Chinese project was developed by artist Ai Weiwei and Architect Herzog and de Meuron. This featured 100 villas designed by architects around the world but the tremendous cost of building the city resulted in some of the country’s highest property values and so nobody lives there.

r0iuqo0c

Ordos, China – Artist – Ai Weiwei, Architect – Herzog & de Meuron and others

Other architects of the seven projects include George Braun and Franz Rosenberg, Paolo Soleri and Frank Lloyd Wright.

k4vh1g5p

Auroville (the city of dawn), India – Conceived by Mirra Alfassa

Most of these buildings exist today, some are a great success and some, failed and expensive experiments.

The Book Project

I have taken a selection of twelve of the photographs from the above two projects and modified them to engender a dreamlike property. The resulting pictures have been inspired by Italo Calvino’s “Invisible Cities” and I have matched quotations from his book to the selected pictures.

I invite the reader to imagine what these cities would be like to live in and to consider the differences. Which are real and which are fictional?

Link to new book entitled “Invisible Cities”

http://www.blurb.co.uk/bookstore/invited/6797412/fa17f83bfd55cd3cee82fd9e2fb36717914c09fb

 

Reflection

I was excited by the idea for this rewrite and felt that the subject matter was excellent and showed a high level of creativity and was articulated well.

By exhibiting the pictures of cities in blurred form I am attempting to draw on the viewer’s imagination but I do wonder if there is too little detail in the photographs to allow the imagination to take off. I invite the assessors to see whether their imagination can respond to my idea and to consider whether they believe that my work, which uses other people’s work in a new context, is art. I firmly believe that it is.