The Selfie: To Live is To Be Photographed

mobile behaviour
Images captured from Instagram using #phone

Susan Sontag, On Photography

To photograph is to appropriate the thing photographed. It means putting oneself into a certain relation to the world that feels like knowledge – and therefore, like power.
As photographs give people an imaginary possession of a past that is unreal, they also help people to take possession of space in which they are insecure.
…dependence on the camera, as the device that makes real what one is experiencing….

Travel becomes a strategy for accumulating photographs. Most tourists feel compelled to put the camera between themselves and whatever is remarkable that they encounter. Unsure of other responses, they take a picture. This gives shape to an experience: stop, take a photograph, and move on.

Jose Van Dijck, Mediated Memories in the Digital Age

Whereas their parents invested considerable time and effort in building up material collections of pictures for future reference, youngsters appear to take less interest in sharing photographs as objects than as sharing them as experiences. [p.114]

Digital photography is part of this larger transformation in which the self becomes the center of a virtual universe made up of informational and spatial flows, individuals articulate their identity as social beings not only by taking and storing photographs to document their lives but also by by participating in communal photographic exchanges that mark their identity as interactive producers and consumers of culture.
From the above observations it is tempting to draw the conclusion that digital cameras are moving away from their prime functions as memory tools, instead becoming tools for identity formation, communication, and experience. If photographs were always a medium for remembering scenes and objects from the past, digital cameras particularly encourage users to imagine and invent the present.[p.116]

Sherry Turkle, Alone Together

Gradually we come to see our online life as life itself. We come to see what robots offer as relationship. the simplification of relationship is no longer a source of compliant. It becomes what we want. Technology reshapes the landscape of our emotional lives, but is it offering us the lives we want to lead? [p.17]

Arms held high; cell phone glint in the sun. People are taking pictures of themselves, of strangers, of friends…The event is a celebration of physical presence, but the crowd reaches out to those who are absent. It is important to have images of the day on one’s own phone. And it is important to send them along. A photo from the inauguration, or a text, a posting, an email, a Tweet – all validate the sense of being there. It used to be that taking a photograph marked participation…But these days, the photograph is not enough. Sending implies being….We are pressed into the service of technologies of remembrance and validation. [p.302]

Sarah Kember & Joanna Zylinska, Life After New Media

Our argument is that events are never merely presented and represented in the media, and that any such representations are always to an extent performative. [xvi]

If indeed to live is to be photographed, then contrary to its more typical association with the passage of time and death, photography can be understood more productively in terms of vitality, as a process of differentiation and life-making. [p.72]

..if we are to think about photography in terms of mediation – whereby mediation stands for the differentiation of, as well as the connection between, media and, more broadly, for the acts and processes of producing and temporarily stabilizing the world into media , agents and relations, and networks – we need to see the ontology of photography as predominantly that of becoming.[p.79]

Meet Brad the Toaster

I met Simone Rebaudengo at frog design Munich today. We spoke about social machines and addiction. Specifically we spoke about Brad the toaster, part of a project called Addicted Products that he finished in May in London during some time at Haque Design & Research. Brad wears his emotions on his sleeve. Use him infrequently and he gets upset. Render Brad useless by not making toast and it’s over – he’ll probably send a message to a courier to fetch him. Then you’re on the “black toast list” – which is pretty dire. Brad is not owned, he’s hosted. Brad tweets. If you host Brad you could follow him. – Natalie Dixon

Addicted products: The story of Brad the Toaster from Simone Rebaudengo on Vimeo.

There’s no sunshine when she’s gone….

Dutch design firm CleverFranke  harvested 714,843 pieces of digital flotsam about the weather from social media, blogs and elsewhere for their latest project. The aim: to show the relationship between weather and sentiment in Holland.

The design result is a spiderweb of loveliness, refined and minimalist. But it would have even lovelier with some interactivity. A zoom? Can we go deeper? See the actual tweets, blogs mentions and more…


This weather chart project* continues to support the notion that we can see how expressions of emotion/sentiment/mood reflect the real-life landscape of our world. In this instance sunshine hours and positive sentiment** show an incredible correlation.

Sometimes things go without saying, but we still love to see it confirmed in the data.
What they found:

  • It’s cold in December and people feel negative about that.
  • The Dutch love sun – more so, sentiment ratings and sunshine hours  are closely correlated as shown below.
  • There’s a lot more weather chatter in the summer months.
  • When it’s Spring (and there is very little rain – April) people are happier.

*data from Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute.

** Sentiment analysis by Ai-Applied.

The Poking Machine

While social media has its undeniable affordances, we don’t need a conference to tell us we’re reinventing our expressions of emotion online. We’ve steadily relegated our handshakes, glances, winks or smiles to below those of digital “pokes” and “likes”. In a parody turned technical, Dutch artists Jasper van Loenen and Bartholomäus Traubeck developed the Poking Machine, showcased at the alt-conference Unlike Us held in Amsterdam on 8-10 March. It’s a wearable device that physically pokes a person whenever a friend virtually pokes them on Facebook. The Poking Machine consists of a custom-built circuit (ATtiny, servo, battery, and bluetooth module) that connects to an Android phone that tracks incoming pokes. The circuit is housed in a coloured laser-cut box that users wear on the arm. While people happily poke away on Facebook, Van Loenen and Traubeck are poking fun at us. Even without the benefits of hindsight they can see the future. There’s little disputing that in years to come, digital poking will not go down as one of mankind’s finest moments.
Poking Machine
Poking machine
Poking Machine