August 29, 2006 4:00 AM PDT
Digital cameras focus on revised reality
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With photo-editing packages widely available, Southwick said he has seen a change over the years in people's attitude toward the integrity of photos. During lectures or speaking engagements, Southwick asks his audience how many people have heard of Photoshop. Ten or 12 people used to raise their hands, but now everybody does. Still, as big as Photoshop's impact, Southwick said, in-camera photo-editing features will have an even greater effect on the way people relate to photography.
If pictures are indeed captured memories, as camera marketers would have consumers believe, these new features enable people to create a rosier vision of their personal history.
Spina pointed out that the creation of these tools and the fact that there is a market for them, speaks to the societal pressure to achieve physical perfection, as well as some people's deceptiveness when creating online personas.
"It almost does contribute to people changing their identities, for whatever reasons they are motivated to do that," Spina said. "Particularly, I can see it being used on a dating service. Now you can say the picture is current and still lie. But what I want to know is: What's going to finally happen when you meet that person? Even if you are not using it for that, its only interest is to make you look better. But why would you take a picture of yourself and give it to people who know you if it doesn't really look like you?"
But does it really matter? Photos have been "lying" for years in one respect or another. For example, photography from the 1940s, because it was black and white, gave a clean orderly appearance, with people in photos from that era appearing consistently crisp, with bright white teeth and seemingly matching outfits.
Spina said that he finds most technology of this nature as nothing more than entertainment. But he does see the trend leading to a larger philosophical question.
"Does social change drive technology change, or do changes in technology change social behavior?" he asked. "No one has won that debate...It just depends on where you fall on that continuum. My own personal bias is that technology advancements lead to social change."
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