KILLINGS, daily columns and blog —

2014 columns, Gaming & Technology

Reality vs. Instagram

by Connor Tomas O'Brien , June 16, 20141 Comment

filter

Image credit: James Butler

Over at crowdfunding platform Indiegogo, a group of Edinburgh-based hipsters recently announced their intention to produce a range of amber-tinted Wayfarer-knockoffs. So far, so uninspired. The gimmick? The tint of the lenses is apparently the result of ‘endless research’ into the workings of the most popular Instagram filters. The response to the glasses has been phenomenal: as of late May, the team behind Tens, the ‘Real Life Photo Filter’ sunglasses, have already raised over £300,000 from 7000 backers.

Would Baudrillard have forked out for a pair of Tens? At the very least, he would have made the point that crafting a pair of lenses that replicate the look of an over-processed digital photograph represents the absolute triumph of the hyperreal. Because our colour-graded photos have become more authentic to us than the world itself, Baudrillard might have noted, it was inevitable that we’d eventually be drawn toward glasses that distort the nature of reality so that it better comports with the pictures we share on our touchscreens.

By now, of course, the assumption is that every digital photograph has been post-processed unless proven otherwise, and the way we decide to filter our pictures is an act of identity construction. We are tied, in some strange and unspoken way, to those who process their photos as we do, because their images are set in the same alternate reality as our own, and whether you’re a Walden person or a Sutro enthusiast can sometimes matter a great deal more than whatever it is you shoot. A photograph’s subject matter is fleeting, after all, but the algorithm that alters its curve profiles is forever. While previously we altered ourselves (via, say, a well-placed piercing, well-tailored suit, well-applied makeup, or well-ripped Guns ‘N Roses t-shirt) to make a statement about our taste or worldview, now we have the tools to, at least in some sense, alter the world itself.

Considering how much power we have to process our pictures, and how arbitrary our filter preferences really are, it seems likely we’re now fated to cycle through photo processing trends for ever and ever. If 2011 was marked by the saturated greens and yellows of Instagram’s Lo-Fi filter, 2014 might be remembered as a faded and subtly hue-shifted year, as on point photographers move en masse toward VSCO’s consumer film emulation filters. Already, too, communities are emerging in which smartphoneographers are ghettoising based entirely on post-processing preferences. VSCO GRID, for example, is a photo sharing site with a single point of difference: you can only upload and view pictures that have been run through VSCO’s filters.

Our infatuation with one-tap DIY post-processing doesn’t mean we’re necessarily entirely comfortable with the democratisation of photo editing. It’s been over three years since Instagram launched, and we’re still not sure whether processing a photograph might be considered akin to doctoring a memory. Recently, services have emerged allowing you to spot ‘filter fakers’ (those who tag their pictures with #nofilter, but proceed to post-process anyway), and there are professional photographers who continue to argue that, ‘Every time a news organisation uses a Hipstamatic or Instagram-style picture in a news report, they are cheating us all.’ (This doesn’t really hold up: virtually all journalistic images in newspapers are carefully colour-graded, and almost all the 35mm photos that sit in our shoeboxes were tweaked by spotty teenagers working minimum wage at Rabbit Photo).

In Vernor Vinge’s Rainbows End, characters wear contacts that overlay the world with custom computer graphics, and in the ‘real world’ (whatever that means), Google Glass offers the potential for a similar style of reality augmentation. The Tens sunglasses are comparatively primitive, as are our Instagram and VSCO filters, but perhaps this is what makes them so compelling. We don’t necessarily want to exist in a virtual reality world – we simply want to be able to tweak what already exists to make it our own: maybe deepen the sky, cut out the shadows, vignette the corners.

Connor Tomas O’Brien is a web designer and writer, co-founder of ebookstore platform Tomely, and co-director of the Digital Writers’ Festival.

ACO logo




  • Mel Campbell

    Reminds me of the Claude glass, a tinted mirror which artists and travellers in the Romantic period gazed into to make real landscapes resemble the paintings of Claude Lorrain. You’d stand with your back to the landscape and hold up the glass to see it reflected there… much as we might now hold up our phones and view the world through their screens.

9781863957434

Kill Your Darlings

What We’re Reading: Readings staff share their June picks

Looking for a book recommendation? Staff from Readings bookshop share what they’ve been reading this month. Read more »

lisa-gorton_the-life-of-houses

James Tierney

A Novel of Longer Exhalations: Lisa Gorton’s The Life of Houses

It’s sometimes said that each book teaches you how to read it. That each way of telling a story needs to not only beguile anew but needs to tutor the reader in the ways to best attend its pages. Read more »

9781743316337

Danielle Binks

Finding Books for Young Readers: The Reading Children’s Book Prize

James Patterson once said, ‘There’s no such thing as a kid who hates reading. There are kids who love reading and kids who are reading the wrong books.’ So how do we get the right books into the hands of budding bibliophiles? Well, the Readings Children’s Book Prize Shortlist is a great place to start. Read more »

clouds-of-sila-maria-1

Rebecca Shaw

The curse of the ‘gal pals’

As a well-known humourless, angry, hairy arm-pitted, feminist lesbian, I encounter daily issues that I can place on a scale from things that mildly irritate me all the way to things that completely offend me. Read more »

2691149967_01b38304f3_b

Rebecca Shaw

Fuck Yeah: Swearing like a lady

I had been trying to pinpoint exactly why the HBO television show Veep brings me such joy. Yes, it is a very funny, very well-written show with a great cast, but that didn’t quite go far enough in explaining the immense enjoyment it gives me. The eureuka moment finally struck when I stumbled over a compilation video of the best insults from the show. Read more »

AnneEdmonds-300dpi-sml-860x450_c

Alexandra Neill

Curse of the Comedienne: When comedy comes before gender

At this year’s Melbourne International Comedy Festival, I saw only shows by women. I did this for several reasons: to support great comedians, to force myself to see more shows I knew nothing about, and because I really like comedy by ladies. I also did it because I was curious. I love comedy, but increasingly have been bothered by the obvious gender disparity. Read more »

Zombies

Michelle Roger

It’s All Just Preparation for the Zombie Apocalypse

‘She’s just another Walking Dead hanger-on,’ I hear you say. Well, yes, I am partial to a bit of walker action. And yes, I may have entertained the odd erotic daydream about a crossbow carrying, scraggy-bearded redneck – but this is not where my zombie obsession began. Come gather around people. Hear my obsessive zombie-loving origin story. Read more »

tom-cruise-jack-reacher-premiere-postponed

Chris Somerville

A lit match in a box of wet dynamite: Tom Cruise is Jack Reacher

I first watched Jack Reacher a few years ago, in a spate of insomnia. The plot is a confused mess, both needlessly intricate and incredibly simple. I’m not going to go into it, mainly because I don’t actually know why the people in this movie do anything. Read more »

Partisan

Joanna Di Mattia

To experience the world with blinkers on: Ariel Kleiman’s Partisan

Partisan beautifully evokes that complex space between childhood and adulthood, when we start to question the worldview we have inherited – when we begin to see the world through our own eyes. It is both a coming-of-age story, and an innocence-coming-undone story. Read more »

Zombies

Michelle Roger

It’s All Just Preparation for the Zombie Apocalypse

‘She’s just another Walking Dead hanger-on,’ I hear you say. Well, yes, I am partial to a bit of walker action. And yes, I may have entertained the odd erotic daydream about a crossbow carrying, scraggy-bearded redneck – but this is not where my zombie obsession began. Come gather around people. Hear my obsessive zombie-loving origin story. Read more »

OITNB2

Anwen Crawford

Still in Prison: The limitations of Orange is the New Black

No, I haven’t binge-watched the entire new season of Orange Is The New Black in one sleepless, bleary-eyed frenzy. This season, the show’s third, doesn’t lend itself to that kind of viewing. The pace is slower, the cliff-hangers missing. Read more »

kim-kardashian-selfish-cover-main

Brodie Lancaster

We Are All Kardashians

For the past five years, I have loved and been obsessed with the Kardashians. Specifically, the E! reality series that made them famous. I often feel the need to intellectualise why I like these series and the people on them – you know, because I’m not a moron, and these are shows about morons, for morons. Read more »

ss_8df8236403f5aad45eeedd33d2bd545e45435b39.1920x1080

Katie Williams

The More Things Change: Choice and consequence in Life is Strange

You can either be a benevolent hero or a monster, but few games deal with the multitudes contained by actual people. And what does it matter, anyway? There’s no such thing as regret when it comes to in-game decision-making – not when you can so easily restart the game to see what outcome will result from choosing Option B instead. Read more »

svfw crop

Katie Williams

Silicon Valley Fashion Week?: Fashion, technology, and wearability

Last week saw the inaugural Silicon Valley Fashion Week? (yes, with a question mark) unfold in San Francisco. The show promised ‘drones, robots, and mad inventions’, and tickets sold out swiftly; attendees were clearly eager to see more inventive clothing in this heartland of nerds. Read more »

AnimalCrossing copy

Katie Williams

Digging For Meaning in Utopia: Storytelling in Animal Crossing

Animal Crossing is a series of games in which – as my partner once remarked incredulously – ‘nothing ever happens.’ In its latest incarnation, Animal Crossing: New Leaf, you become the unwitting mayor of a town populated by anthropomorphic, bipedal animals. Read more »

CrawlMeBlood_20150607_261_LoRes copy

Jane Howard

Adhocracy: Lifting the curtain on the creative process

Every June long weekend I wrap myself up in several extra layers and make my way to the Waterside Worker’s Hall in Port Adelaide for Adhocracy, Vitalstatistix’s annual hothouse that brings together artists from around the country for a weekend of creative development. Read more »

Orlando #2 - THE RABBLE

Jane Howard

This Is a Story of Artistic Excellence

This is a story of the first four plays I saw at Malthouse Theatre. It’s a story that can only continue as long as support for independent artists continues; it’s a story that can only keep growing as long as support for independent artists grows. It’s a story of where artistic excellence comes from, and how we get to see it on our main stages. Read more »

AnneEdmonds-300dpi-sml-860x450_c

Alexandra Neill

Curse of the Comedienne: When comedy comes before gender

At this year’s Melbourne International Comedy Festival, I saw only shows by women. I did this for several reasons: to support great comedians, to force myself to see more shows I knew nothing about, and because I really like comedy by ladies. I also did it because I was curious. I love comedy, but increasingly have been bothered by the obvious gender disparity. Read more »