Terminal Identity, and Contemporary Portraiture [1]

Since my 100 Portraits project involves continued social interaction, I have had time to think on how we can communicate and interact using modern media and 'social networking'. With email, phone calls, texting, instant message services (such as MSN, BBM, iChat, Facebook Chat), Skype and so many other services we can connect with people around the world to talk, flirt, catch-up, share ideas and interests, exchange information, and creatively collaborate - all from the luxury of our bedrooms, houses, or cafes. We interact through the fibre-optic skeins of technology.

As of today, 25/5/2011, there are 669,730,880 Facebook members1, and the only site that sees more digital traffic is Google2. We are living more and more online. Aside from the social interaction aspects we can use the Internet to order food, buy new clothes and goods, learn from prerecorded lectures and podcasts, listen to music, stream television programmes and films, access pornography, find jobs, etc... everything we could want is only a few clicks away.

All of this is mentioned in E.M. Forester's When the Machine Stops (1909). Yes, in 1909 science-fiction literature was musing on how humanity could become more dependent on technology. In Forester's short story the people live their lives through the Machine, in much the same way as we use digital technology. And this is how each of us has developed ourterminal identity. More on this later.

Back to the 100 Portraits project and When the Machine Stops. In Forester's novella there is a means of communicating through the Machine which allows a user, sitting in their personal room, to talk to and see another person - using "the blue plate". This is not unlike Skype, or iChat, where we can talk to, and see, people from all corners of the globe.

Using Skype I was able to take portraits of a friend with neither of us leaving our bedrooms. When I attempt this again, I may use a camera rather than screen-grabbing, so that my action is recorded and the image quality is better; however, I really wanted to explore the notion of photographing someone without pressing the shutter-button.

(48/100, 100 Portraits in 100 Days, 2011)

Again, this is something I will come back to.


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