Sunday, August 07, 2005

Online Reality Testing

As I've been learning more about Photoshop, I've developed some skill in editing images to the aesthetic version of reality that I prefer. I recently showed my wife a shot of her at the beach in which I removed a person in the background who disrupted the composition, and added in a seagull from another shot. It was difficult to tell that the image had been altered. "I'll never automatically believe any photograph again," she commented.

For a quite a while now the media has had many tools for altering reality. But the issue of what is real and what is fiction seems to be blossoming in our contemporary culture - as evident, for example, in the current fascination for "reality" TV.

Cyberspace adds even more fuel to the fires of questionable realities. All sorts of reality-bended images, games, and websites proliferate online. Even in seemingly normal text-based interactions with people, we never know for sure if others are presenting themselves as they really are, or in some fictionalized and perhaps (in their mind) idealized way.

Life on the Internet also highlights the questionable veracity of information. They say you can find anything online, but is a particular web site giving you the accurate and therefore real answer to your query? Will other sites confirm that information, or say something quite different? Post any question to an active discussion group and you may get dozens of replies stating all sorts of facts and opinions, often contradictory facts and opinions. Who is offering the "right" information? Can you even tell the difference between fact and opinion?

And so I'm wondering, if our lives in cyberspace immerse us, on a daily basis, in a sea that embodies all shades of truth, are we getting any smarter in discerning fact from fiction? As we swim through all sorts of real and imaginary encounters, are our powers of reality testing improving?


Blogger lemasney said...

I have slowly lost all faith in media [not /the/ media, necessarily] for showing me the truth. Every image I look at, I look at with a questioning eye, searching for the leftover marks of the smudge tool or the stamp tool. In everything that I hear in digital format of a voice or a story, I listen for a telltale click or hiss leftover from editing. Then I wonder what I am missing from the real story. Reality TV is so very far from reality, and I think there may be a backlash soon, where cops gets a channel of its own, where no editing takes place, and no breaks occur in filming. It's so easy to do for the average person with some knowledge about visual or audio editing tools that I almost expect something I experience sensorially to have been edited, for content, for clarity, or for lack of interest in the untouched, continuous clip. Where are the Lumiere Bros. long unedited single takes when you need them?

8:01 PM  
Blogger John Suler said...

Well said, John. I guess reality, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. This kind of relativistic viewpoint can become tiresome, but it seems to be where cyberspace is leading us.

If someone out there has the truth, please post it :-)

4:25 PM  

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