Not Every Social Network Doubles as a New Source
The Psychology of Selfies & A Handmade Pinhole Camera
We learned this week that the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year is selfie, the informal noun defined as “a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website.” It was added to the Oxford Dictionary Online (not the Oxford English Dictionary), which bases its entries on current and practical word usage, meaning they can be removed when they are out of use.
Blog posts about the psychology of the selfie abound. It’s a cheap fad. It’s a an evaluator of social reach. It’s a modern iteration of the self-portrait fueled by a hunger for social feedback. It’s a reflection of our loneliness and desire for image control. And on and on.
And then there is this.
Photographer Tatiano Altberg teaches children in a Rio de Janeiro favela how to make pinhole cameras out of recycled cans. There is no viewfinder and no button. They learn to create narratives through their photos, and to take self-portraits.
But unlike the countless “selfies” they were already used to seeing on social networks, these forced them to be more introspective, considering both their mood and environment.
“The challenge of working with pinhole photography is to make the self-portrait a process of reflection about one’s self — a product of an intention,” she said. “The idea is not to take photos in an automatic way, with poses and gestures that are seen in the pictures teenagers take with their cellphones and digital cameras. It’s necessary to pay attention to the surroundings and think before making an image. Pinhole is a slow process of creation that demands a lot of thought.”
The payoff has come with students who have become excited about the possibilities of self-expression. Jailton Nunes was a skeptical 12-year-old when he started the workshop, deflecting any compliment with jokes. But over time, he came to embrace the project, and a self-portrait of his was used on the cover of “Everyday My Thoughts Are Different,” which was published this year.
“Another photo taken by him that is very significant is the one where he appears beside a miniature sofa,” Ms. Altberg said. “He looks like a giant. The image has special symbolic meaning since he was explicitly self-conscious about his height, something that diminished throughout the year as he gained confidence.”
FJP: Here’s a thought. For young teens who live busy lives in crowded spaces (Rio or elsewhere) that are then compounded by an abundance of digital imagery in online social worlds, it’s difficult to find the space to know yourself, to construct an image of yourself for yourself and to capture that image. In a sense, the digital selfie is a way to try to create and preserve a controllable record of who you are in an otherwise uncontrollable world of too many records. It’s a very human need. If we look at it that way, the potential for teaching projects like Altberg’s is enormous.—Jihii
Image: Yasmin Lopez, via Brazilian Stories and Selfies Through a Pinhole, NY Times.
When she was in preschool she was interested in how babies are made, and we had this book, Where Willy Went, about a little sperm in a race to try to get to the egg. So she already knew about the sperm meeting the egg, but she didn’t know how [the sperm] got there in the first place. She asked me [about it], and I said, “You really want to know?” And she said, “Yeah.” And I just blurted it all out. It took about seven minutes. I told her the whole thing. She was like wide-eyed and I said, “Was that what you were expecting?” She said no. I said, “Has anyone talked about this at school?” And she said no. So I said, “Well, was it a surprise?” She said no. And then she said, “I mean yes.” I said, “Well, that’s it.” And then I had to tell all of the other parents [at her school], “Hey, by the way, if you hear [your kids say] anything about the penis getting bigger and blah blah blah, uh, this is where it came from. —
Molly Ringwald, on explaining sex to her daughter, in an interview with Maude Apatow for Rookie Mag.
Maude is 15 and a writer for Hello Giggles. Molly is, well, now 45 and still everyone’s teenage crush. The interview is delightfully straightforward and refreshing and covers everything from being a teenager, to writing, acting, dealing with technology warping your brain, and being a mom. Stuff like this is why I adore Rookie Mag, a radically real, endlessly creative online site for teenage girls (created by a teenage girl).—Jihii
Related: Last week, Her Girl Friday invited Rookie’s Editorial Director, Anahaeed Alani to share the Rookie story and some wisdom at a panel on lady-powered start-ups. Here’s a video recap of the event, and here’s an interview with Anaheed by ReportHers.
Broadcast Time for Obamacare vs. Typhoon Haiyan
Pew just released a study on how four major cable news networks divvied up air time to spend on two big stories last week (Nov 11-15): the Obamacare changes and the deadly aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. 80 hours of programming were studied: 4 hours per channel per day, 1 during daytime and 3 during primetime. The findings speak for themselves in the chart above.
The two channels with strong ideological identities in prime-time—liberal MSBNC and conservative Fox News—spent far more time on the politically-charged health insurance story than the overseas disaster. And the two organizations that built a brand on global reporting—CNN and Al Jazeera America, an offshoot of the Qatar-based Al Jazeera media network—spent considerably more time on the tragedy in the Philippines.
Image: Screenshot from Pew.
In Which Television, Bob Dylan and Interactivity Collide
A new interactive music video for Bob Dylan’s Like a Rolling Stone has been making the rounds and is absolutely fantastic. WATCH here.
The video has 16 channels—with plans for more, Mashable reports. You can toggle between them as the song progresses, and on each one, you’ll find people mouthing the words to the Dylan classic. There’s Steve Levy on SportsCenter singing along. There’s Marc Maron berating some poor podcast guest with Dylan’s lyrics. Drew Carey lip syncs on the set of The Price Is Right. And so on.
The video was created by Interlude and directed by young YouTube sensation Vania Heymann. Its premiere is timed with the release of The Complete Album Collection, Vol. 1, a massive new Dylan box set.
FJP: Want more? Another favorite interactive video of ours is Danish denim brand Only Jeans’ shoppableinteractive film Only Because We Can. It’s incredible.
Image: (One of) The 8 Most Unusual Screenshots from Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone” Music Video, Vanity Fair.
"A visual shock! For the first time in its history Liberation is published WITHOUT photographs. To show the power and importance of photography at a time when the industry is facing unprecedented challenges. To support all photojournalists, fashion photographers, portraitists, or conceptual artists"
I love this, not every dude with a Nikon is a photographer, there’s a need to make this clear. Last weeks cover Liberation
via British Journal of Photography
Yes, much of the Internet is free. But it takes time and energy to develop the skills and habits necessary to successfully derive value from today’s media. Knowing how to tell a troll from a serious thinker, spotting linkbait, understanding a meme, cross checking articles against each other, even posting a comment to disagree with something–these are skills. They might not feel like it, but they are. And they’re easier to acquire the higher your tax bracket. —
Ryan Holiday, The New Digital Divide: Privilege, Misinformation and Outright B.S. in Modern Media, Betabeat.
Holiday writes of the extreme privilege often inherent in digital literacy and the fact that it’s expensive to be a core user of online media.
If I work as a security guard or at the counter of a Wendy’s, our media environment is significantly more difficult to track. Not everyone has their Internet time subsidized by an employer who asks them to sit in front of a computer all day. In fact, many people have jobs that forbid them from doing just that, with bosses who will write them up if caught checking their phone. These people–we often refer to them (derisively) as “average Americans”–are removed from the iterative, lightning-fast online media cycle for hours at a time and often for the entire day.
Before you joke about how lucky they are, think about how that would change someone’s relationship with culture. It means they end up getting their news from Facebook or from the “most emailed” stories of the day (of dubious validity). With only so much time left at the end of the day, they go to the one or two places that can give them the gist. Their reality is shaped by the things that tend to trickle about and from the Internet.
He raises the food/nutrition analogy to point out how dangerous the consequences of such a divide can be. American’s obesity epidemic, caused in large part by a culture of eating what’s cheap and convenient because of a lack of access and affordability, can and will replicate itself in unhealthy media consumption patterns. (Related: The Information Diet by Clay Johnson)
Culturally, a portion of the population will be stuffed with hormone-injected garbage (Huffington Post slideshows, Facebook linkbait and other Cheetos-like information) while the other portion lives in its own reality of tailor-made, high quality information that makes them increasingly wealthy and utterly detached. One side will be able to influence, direct and exploit the other side because one controls the media while the other is at its mercy.
Read the rest here.
How To: Get Dead Relatives #Offline -
Modern Loss is a website that seeks to create a space for figuring out how to navigate your life after death. It includes essays from those who have experienced loss, resources for the practical affairs that must be dealt with after a death, and projects and articles about grief.
The site was started by two women, Rebecca Soffer and Gabrielle Birkner, who lost parents at an early age and who are clearly opposed to the toxic forced optimism of American culture that can make grief all the more difficult. They promise a websitethat will be free of people adjudicating how sad you’re allowed to feel and a complete ban on the phrase, “everything happens for a reason.”
Linked above is a step-by-step how-to guide on getting relatives who have passed away offline on a variety of social media platforms.
Fascinating background reading about death in the digital era is this 2009 report from Northwestern University’s J-school on the state of the American obituary. It discusses the A-Z of obituaries, death in the age of social media, and the relatively new phenomenon of social networking sited that are turned into memorials.
The pro‐life perspective is that if you show a woman that she has an 11‐week‐old fetus and she sees the movement, and that convinces her to keep the fetus, then isn’t that a good thing? Whereas a pro‐choice person would say she didn’t come in and know she was going to get a sonogram; there is no medical reason for it. So why are you offering a sonogram except to convince a woman not to have an abortion, which is what she really wanted to do? —
Documentary filmmaker Raney Aronson as quoted in a fascinating case study in journalism ethics (by the Knight Case Studies Initiative at Columbia) called Frontline’s “The Last Abortion Clinic”: What’s Fair in a Video World?
This case takes students behind the scenes into the making of a news documentary for Frontline, produced at the PBS affiliate in Boston (WGBH). The case tells the story of the making of “The Last Abortion Clinic,” a 2005 documentary by producer Raney Aronson and her team. The documentary combined a legal story (developments in the abortion debate since Roe v. Wade) with personal stories—interviews with women in clinics who had confronted the abortion question in their own lives. It focused on the state of Mississippi, which had only one abortion clinic remaining. The case chronicles the evolution of a documentary from idea to finished form. Along the way, it highlights numerous editorial, logistical and ethical decisions Aronson faced in her quest to tell fairly a complex and value-laden story.
Read the PDF here.
Google’s Lie-Detecting Neck Tat
Google patented a neck tattoo that can function both as a mobile-device microphone and a lie detector.
According to the patent document, we need this quirky invention because it could “reasonably improve” communication; the throat tattoo could dampen “acoustic noise” — which would make it easier to communicate in loud environments.
The lie detector or “galvanic skin response detector,” would assess the amount of sweat or “skin resistance” a person has, which would allow the tattoo to determine if he or she is “nervous or engaging in speaking falsehoods.” When the person is lying, their tattoo will light up to let everyone in the room know.
1) This is just a patent. Patents rarely become products. Most are worthless. Etc.
2) Though it is called a tattoo, the device is really more of a sticker applied with an adhesive.
2a) Which is a good thing because everyone hates an obsolescent tattoo (see: tribal bands, frat letters, ex-spouses).
3) Other researchers are working on similar “tattoos,” but for different applications, mostly biomedical sensors.
4) It’s not just for humans! “Here it is contemplated that the electronic tattoo can also be applied to an animal as well. Audio circuitry can also include a microphone for emitting sound corresponding to fluctuations of muscle or tissue in the throat.”
Image: The Atlantic