The social screen

Image: just an act of florid self-expression…

Musing on Instagram, Adrian Chan has a great insight about the nature of “the social screen”:

The image, as an act of expression, inherits from the medium. The social screen has three modes: mirror, surface, and window. In its mirror mode, we see our image. In its surface mode, we can “consume” content rendered onscreen. In its window mode, what’s onscreen disappears and we see others and communicate with or to them.

That’s both elegant and a useful model whem developing for social media. It could be more useful to think about social screens than the size or relative mobility.

It also reminds me of Kevin Kelly on our becoming “people of the screen“, (where we were recently “people of the book”) and his thoughts about “screening” as a verb with expanding meaning.

Adrian goes on to discuss the different ways people use Instagram socially:

These are the modes of the social screen in general, and supply the medium with its unique personal and social valence. But the social image adds to the properties of screen.

    • The image is a proxy for presence: to exist, socially, one must be seen, and in the media, this includes social nuances of being seen, such as being noticed, watched, looked at, admired, liked
    • The image is an act of expression: expression is addressed to others, and in the media, the assumption that others are paying attention
    • The image is a projection of one’s feelings, moods, sentiments, and thoughts: the image frames what its creator has seen and made, and in editing, cropping, filtering, and tweaking, produced
    • The image is a reflection on its creator: the image is viewed, “received” by others whose impressions of the creator may be informed by his or her shared images


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