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”.
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:
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.
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.
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.
The pace is hotting up and I am having to move more quickly between Facebook and Instagram.
Today I experimented by uploading the same picture onto six different groups. My intention was to assess which groups are the most active so that I can target the busiest groups.
Unfortunately nobody liked the picture so I will have to get back to the drawing board.
14 August 2017
Today I read an article by Zuzanna Stanska in “Daily Art Daily”about how Cindy Sherman rocked the art world (two days ago) by posting self portraits onto Instagram.
This article fascinated me because it is exactly what I have been doing except of course that my pictures are nowhere near as engaging and also I am not a world authority on art.
I have also published two pictures onto four facebook groups to try to repeat the exercise which will tell me which group is the most active.
After 24 hours I have the following result:
Street Photography in the World 2
Only Street Photography 3
Street People and Portraits 5
Street Photography Club 1
The result is still not conclusive but for a while I have seen Street People and Portraits as very busy and have picked up more of my friends from there than anywhere else. Looking at the activity on this site confirms my conclusion.
I made an effort with one of these photos in photoshop and Nik Software which has helped to make this one more popular than the other even though the other is technically superior and has a good composition and cropping. My next effort will be to investigate whether more extreme post production will have an impact.
21 August 2017
Today I have sorted out some of my best portraits over the last 2 or 3 years. I am showcasing them in Instagram and within the Facebook group “Street, people and portraits” which I had previously identified as one of the busy groups. I have researched hashtags for Instagram and will be using some of the top 30 to see if I can increase my following.
26 August 2017
The results of the portraits posted have been disappointing. These are some of my best photos but I do not seem to be reaching a wide enough audience (either that or my portraits are not well received).
Examples from Instagram:
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
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:
Meanwhile Sidney has had three more approaches from ladies who appear to be prostitutes.
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:
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.
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.
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.