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Project 2 – the final ten!

Photography and social media – counting the cost.

With the following ten images, I attempt to provoke the viewer’s thoughts on our interaction with digital technology and the true cost of social media. We consider engaging in social media a free activity … but is it?

I began capturing photos for this project around Saturday’s Salamanca Market in Hobart. It was a good location to blend in with camera toting tourists which made it easier to catch close up candid shots with my Sony RX100 III. None of these photos were set up, they were taken in public areas so no permission was required. As I captured more images, the ideas began to flow. My original intent evolved from a collection of images of people interacting with thier devices and not those around them, to a story of social media and mass consumption. I headed into town to capture some store shots and hunt down the holy grail – an idea I had for the closing shot.

I took hundreds of photos, many of the same group of people from different angles, then whittled them down to 31 images which I published in previous posts on my journal. They were selected based on several factors, primarily how people were interacting their devices and what people around them were also doing – many also using devices.

I edited the selected images from RAW files in Photoshop then cropped them using a 16:9 aspect ratio for consistency, sometimes using the rule of thirds as a general guide to draw the eye to phones, eyes or an Apple logo. Sometimes they were cropped to include background activities. A few images are actually two combined in order to get the right user interactions from several people in the photo as often one would be looking away or blocking their phone from me while the other was fully involved.

Out of these 31, I selected to following ten to tell the story, I could easily have included more. Some were left out as I felt the quality or composition was poor. I felt that these were the most powerful to deliver my message and provoke thought in the viewer.
I didn’t wish to answer all the questions I ask, but rather leave them open for your own interpretation. To start a discussion, to get you thinking.

In this, I hope I’ve succeded.

DSC01598Who doesn’t want a new phone every year? But do we really NEED one? The recent rise in both the supply and consumption of social media has been a boon for retailers selling the latest mobile hardware with agressive marketing techniques. Most manufacturers now upgrade their flagship model every six months and many consumers have an appetite for the latest gadget. These devices are no longer simply “phones”, they are a touch screen controlled computer in your pocket, sporting more powerful multi-processors than desktop PC’s of 7 years ago.

With a huge range of competing companies and devices, the advance in technology in the last few years has been staggering. Most if not all these devices now sport cameras, some with 16 megapixel and higher resolution with greatly improved image quality making it more accessible than ever for anyone to capture a moment and share it directly with their friends – or the world – through easy to use social media networks.

But is social media actually social? Many people seemingly live there lives through a tiny screen, staring at it instead of what’s happening live right in front of them, capturing every moment to share – ironically, exactly what I was doing for this project, this realisation made me become more aware, observant and even patient. I began to question within myself everything about social media.

Many people love their devices. They decorate them, buy accessories, hold them with pride and gently caress the shiny screen in awe. It completely captivates them. They pull them out at every opportunity.

DSC01824Why do we do it? Is it for our own satisfaction or do we think others will be interested in what we do – what we saw? Does it enrich our lives – or make us time poor? What happens to all this collected data – where does it end up?

Capturing, editing, creating and sharing a moment in time has quickly become a very common and generally accepted phenonenum. We give this information away freely to social media without thought, to be stored on a large companies server which can often be used at their whim. Valuable, often private data.

DSC01831It seems if we’re not capturing social media, we’re consuming it. While it can be a great way to catch up on work, family or friends in other locations, we’re drawn away from those sitting right next to us while we interact on our precious little screens.

DSC01329We can get so involved with what’s happening in that little box we often even ignore those important to us. It can change our emotions, suck us away to another world and steal part of our life!

DSC01339 Social media is not unlike an addiction to a drug. We crave it. It changes our behaviour. It doesn’t discriminate between young and old, race or class.  As we lovingly consume it, it also consumes us! We don’t yet know the full effects on society, on relationships, on our health, the long term consequences of all this information constantly passing through the air around us, inside us.

In our lust for digital media, we also consume physical resources. Previously loved devices now broken, traded for the latest model. Many products are refurbished and distributed to “poorer” countries or broken down and recycled. Many end up as landfill.
The want of a new phone.
The gift of tech.

What is the true cost of social media?


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