Tag Archives: mirror

Curating Reality

 


I have mentioned previously on this blog that I am engaged in an ongoing, qualitative, Facebook-based project looking at the experiences of social media users. None of the work from this most recent project is yet published, though I did use the data for my TtW2012 presentation. As I move into manuscript preparation, there are several theoretical and empirical trends that I need to flesh out.  I hope that readers will indulge me today as I work through one such trend. I especially hope that readers will offer critiques and literature suggestions, as the end product will inevitably be strengthened through collaborative input from this academic community.

Specifically, I hope to flesh out the notion of reality curation. Much of the work on social network sites focuses on self-presentation, or the ways in which people curate images of themselves.  These strategies of image-curation include friending practices, selective photographic and textual displays, and careful utilization of privacy settings—among other practices. Users are careful about their self-images, diligent in their upkeep, and protective against identity threats. Undeniably, I see these laborious practices of protection, maintenance, and care in the participants of my study. I also, however, see a second kind of labor; I see a diligent upkeep not only of outgoing data, but also incoming data. In particular, participants report careful curation of their Facebook News Feeds and (when applicable) Twitter networks.

This second type of curation—the curation of data coming in—is empirically and theoretically interesting. Work that focus on self-presentation (data going out) understands social network sites as both window and mirror—spaces for both voyeurism and self-reflection. This implicitly neglects, however, the idea that windows work two ways: they offer a view from outside in, but also a view from inside out. Social network sites, as opposed to non-social websites, are spaces of simultaneous projection, reflection, and, as I argue here, observation by the prosumer of the Profile.

(more…)

Life Becomes Picturesque: Facebook and the Claude Glass

I have been thinking through ideas on this blog for my dissertation project about how we document ourselves on social media. I recently posted some thoughts on rethinking privacy and publicity and I posted an earlier long essay on the rise of faux-vintage Hipstamatic and Instagram photos. There, I discussed the “camera eye” as a metaphor for how we are being trained to view our present as always its potential documentation in the form of a tweet, photo, status update, etc. (what I call “documentary vision”). The photographer knows well that after taking many pictures one’s eye becomes like the viewfinder: always viewing the world through the logic of the camera mechanism via framing, lighting, depth of field, focus, movement and so on. Even without the camera in hand the world becomes transformed into the status of the potential-photograph. And with social media we have become like the photographer: our brains always looking for moments where the ephemeral blur of lived experience might best be translated into its documented form.

I would like to expand on this point by going back a little further in the history of documentation technologies to the 17th century Claude glass (pictured above) to provide insight into how we position ourselves to the world around us in the age of social media. (more…)