The MacBook Reading Club revisited with the Facebook Self-Portrait

MacBook Reading Club

When Esther Weltevrede gave a short lecture on our MacBook Reading Club at Mediamatic she placed the aesthetics of the Photobooth self-portrait within the larger history of self-portraits:

Digital camera technology advanced ego-photography and ways for selfpresentation. Analogue photography mainly focused on the presentation of others. With exception of the time consuming and error prone self timer, it was very difficult to capture oneself on camera. The “arm-length angle” – taking a snapshot of oneself and possibly a friend with a stretched arm – has taken a leap with the double sided lcd preview screen on digital camera’s cameras as well as mobile phones. The web cam advanced camera technology as medium of selfpresentation further. The camera is always directed at the self. The image where the face is shot from a slightly upper angle is known as the “Youtube angle” or “MySpace angle”. With the built-in cam and Photobooth software, the first thing one does when installing a new mac is taking a snapshot of the self. MacBook Reading Club takes advantage of Photobooth and the build-in camera. MacBook Reading Club is a new phenomenon in ego-photography, and introduces the “MacBook Reading Club angle”. MacBook Reading Club photos can be recognized by their characteristic 90º rotation. With Photobooth open and the MacBook tilted 90º – like a *book* – countdown for a MacBook Reading Club photo starts. Since most people bring their MacBook wherever they go, MacBook Reading Club photos present the opportunity to capture the self in different environments, with and without friends, and upload directly to: (Esther Weltevrede)

Kazys Varnelis takes it even one step further when he describes the Facebook self-portrait as a product of network culture:

The Facebook self-portrait is a product of network culture that reveals how we construct our identities today. It satisfies the version of Andy Warhol’s rule as modified by Momus: “In the future, everyone will be famous to fifteen people,” except that it’s not the future anymore (in fairness the article is 15 years old) and it’s not 15 but rather 150 or 300 people, a typical number in a circle of friends on a social network site.

He not only describes the aesthetics of self-portraits in social networking culture where “the Facebook self-portrait insists upon mastery over one’s self-image and the instant feedback of digital photography allows us this.” He also describes the important fact that our pictures are not only visible to our friends but also to the friends of our friends. While you can put your Facebook, Hyves and MySpace profile on private, your profile image is usually visible. Your profile image is one of the most important features of your profile as it serves as a marker that is nearly always visible.

But what about your old pictures? Deleting content online is one of the most difficult things to do as content spreads through the network and will be cached and archived at certain points. While you can update your “stale” online profile it is hard to get rid of the past. When being faced with one of your old images:

you have to become the consummate manipulator of your image, imagery from the past being less an indictment of present flaws and more an indicator of your ability to remake yourself.

Now I really need to take a new picture as the header of my blog is already three years old. It’s time to remake myself.

3 thoughts on “The MacBook Reading Club revisited with the Facebook Self-Portrait

  1. That is pretty sweet. It had never occurred to me that angles were just waiting to be claimed :)

    BTW, I recently finished Blogging for Engines. Nice work! I plan to respond with a more detailed assessment than that soon. First I have to finish my application to the New Media program at University of Amsterdam. Normally it wouldn’t take so long but I’m writing my academic sample from scratch. Your piece is cited in it, I hope you don’t mind.

  2. Okay I just finished (what I hope is) a decent synopsis:

    De-Commercializing Commerce:
    The Case for an Abstraction

    Synopsis: The paper seeks an effective resistance to the commercialization of the World Wide Web. By examining several forces of this commercialization and their effects, such as Search Engine Optimization and the blog-Search engine relations enumerated by media theorist Anne Helmond, the paper establishes the increasing commercialization of the World Wide Web before discussing two emergent examples of non-commercialized resistance that act as engines of commerce. Several limits to overall growth of these resistances are highlighted and politico-economic adaptations are suggested in response. Finally, a unique engine for generating these adaptations is proposed.

    Whew, now to _finish_ the blasted thing..

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *