As technology becomes more engrained in our daily lives, it sometimes becomes difficult to gain perspective on just how much it has altered our perspective. It is easy to see technology when it is embodied directly in a physical form, such as a consumer electronics gadget. However, when you have been looking at the result of technology for decades, it becomes hard to discern just what kind of impact that technology has had – until something goes wrong, and what was almost invisible before becomes starkly visible after.
One example of this is the digital editing of images – or ‘photoshopping’. This used to be called ‘airbrushing’, but neither of these created verbs really does justice to what is possible when using a tool like Photoshop to edit an image. People can be removed, added, shortened, made taller, thinner, curvier, cleaner, lighter, darker, older, younger – there really isn’t a limit!
Even though these techniques are ubiquitous in the fashion/photography/media industries, we often take for granted that the images we see in magazines are somewhat accurate depictions of another person when they are, in fact, very rarely so.
Think of the impact this has and has had on our society – through the negative contributions to self-esteem issues and unrealistic physical expectations of others if nothing else. The bar is literally set higher than any of us will be able to achieve without similar editing of our photos!
However, some moves are being made in the ‘anti-photoshopping’ camp, most recently by some scientists at Darmouth College (http://bit.ly/I8R0y8) who have developed some software to detect how ‘photoshopped’ an image is. Until it is readily available and being used by everyone though, it is probably very prudent that you and your friends take every magazine and billboard photo you see with a metric tonne of salt!