Exercise 4.1: The 'digital self'

Task: Write an entry in your learning log about the creation of false or alternative identities online. You can touch upon any of the points discussed, or review one of the photographic projects mentioned.

Social networking, shopping, and gaming. People spend so much of their time online nowadays, it often makes me think that avatars are becoming our ‘real’ identities, especially since the virtual and real worlds are augmented together.

The creation of alternative identities and egos is neither a recent or digital phenomenon. I assume that not all of the carte de vistes of the 1850s onwards accurately presented the sitter’s identity.

Laís Pontes

Laís Pontes’ work explores issues of identity construction and fluidity in the age of social media. She encourages other social networkers to evolve the fictional characters that she uploads to various social networking profiles. I find her methodology very interesting, although it does present issues of authorship. If other participators are actively adding and embellishing the artwork, then surely they should take credit for it. Rather than being classed as art, others might consider Pontes work to be a series of social experiments.

In Self and Other, the viewer looks at female portraits, which have been printed mirror tiles. The square format of these colourful portraits reminds me of the filtered, cropped images on Instagram. The mirrored surface creates an interaction between the viewer and the viewed. Pontes intended the work to demonstrate how people project imagined qualities on to those that look at.

In ‘The Girls on Instagram’, Pontes’ virtual characters from her ‘Born Nowhere’ project are rephotographed in the physical world and uploaded to Instagram, in environments which the posters believe suit the character. This reminds me of the Barnaby Bear toy that school children would take home for the weekend and photograph. Another thing that I find intriguing about Pontes work is how some of her projects are intertwined. This is similar to how the virtual world is borderless - we can inhabit a number of different online spaces, such as Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat.

Whilst looking at examples of Pontes’ other work, I was interested by how she over-layed QR codes on top of modified self-portraits, with fictional names. Each QR code acted like a ‘virtual mask’ to hide aspects of the subject’s identity. I have already wondered how I could use QR codes in my final assignment, so Pontes’ work is very inspiring.

A Question of Royalties

Surrounded by professional photographers, with their top notch DSLRs, Karen Anvil captured her photograph with an iPhone SE. The image shows Kate, Prince Harry, and Meghan Markle smiling directly at the camera, connecting with the viewer. After taking her picture, Karen Anvil posted it on her Twitter feed. The tags and image content instantly appealed to media outlets across the UK and the rest of the world.

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Let's go to a place

OCA tutor, Wendy McMurdo, uses photography to document the relationship between children and technology. She is currently exhibiting 'Let's Go to a Place', at the Edinburgh Museum of Childhood. It is inspired by the Pokemon Go craze that took the world by storm in the summer of 2016. The GPS-based app enables the user to use the camera on their digital device to view Pokemon characters in front of them, and enter a parallel world.

McMurdo has digitally manipulated the faces of children's portraits from her daughter's class. The distortions remind me of Julie Cockburn's portraits, however McMurdo's shapes appear to be more varied. They remind me of the pixellated shapes of the Pokemon Go characters that they would encounter. 

The viewer is unable to see the child's complete face, because they are not completely there. These digital natives have both an offline and online existence.

I am really interested in McMurdo's approach to the impact of new technologies on children. Her other work includes Masks II, which  explores identity and play in a post-digital world. This will be useful, when studying the Digital Identities part of this course.