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  1. Angel
    Angel September 6, 2011 at 8:15 pm |

    As a child, if I stared at myself too long in the mirror my mother would admonish not to stare and that, “vanity is a sin”. Thirty some odd years later, and that phrase still goes through my mind if I’m in the mirror too long, or feel too positively (not critically) about what I see. I wonder how many other people have had similar experience to cloud their perception. Perhaps no one wants to be caught vulnerable.

  2. Clare
    Clare September 6, 2011 at 8:19 pm |

    Dunno. Some, really most, of those faces look more like neutral expressions to me. Or kinda like the slightly harried look I think I get when glancing in a mirror in passing, just making sure everything is still in place and I don’t have dirt on my face or something.

  3. Jadey
    Jadey September 6, 2011 at 8:21 pm |

    I am actually incredibly offended by this photographer’s actions. I’m very body and image shy and the idea of being photographed in such a personal way without my awareness and then having those pictures made public is triggering the fuck out of me right now. I am now kind of freaking out about the idea of going outside and being photographed like this, although at least I don’t live in Sweden. This photographer is an asshole. I get that she needed a lack of awareness to take the pictures in the first place, but she should have behaved as field researchers often do when gathering data in public spaces to obtain consent after the fact prior to doing anything with the results. If she had asked, I’m sure many people would have consented to having their pictures publicized, and she wouldn’t have engaged in such deliberately unethical boundary violations.

    The actual pictures to me looked neutral. I parsed no obvious dismay, disgust, disapproval or down-trodden expressions. One guy looked kind of squinty, but that might have been light reflecting off the mirror. Research shows that most of us are pretty poor at reading emotions off of stranger’s faces unless they are very basic emotions (e.g., happy, angry, sad, surprised) that are being strongly displayed.

  4. Liminal Fem
    Liminal Fem September 6, 2011 at 8:40 pm |

    “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” – Thoreau

  5. andie
    andie September 6, 2011 at 8:43 pm |

    I find this project troublesome as well. Basically, by way of appearing in public, the photographer has implied that these people have given up their right to not be photographed without permission. I get the impression from the way these people are standing that they are walking by and glancing at the glass (I know I do this in my downtown)..

    One’s face is probably their most identifiable characteristic.. this would be like photo-radar cops posting people’s licence plates online.

    I get the idea of capture people’s expressions when they don’t know they are being photographed, but I can’t say I agree with the execution.

  6. o
    o September 6, 2011 at 8:43 pm |

    I’m with Jadey – this is really triggering. I’m paranoid, so it’s hard sometimes when I’m out because I think people are watching me and taking notice of me, and like Jadey I’m hugely body shy. This photographer is an absolute arse for this, it’s morally reprehensible. But she’s got her column inches, which is all she was after anyway.

  7. Ryan
    Ryan September 6, 2011 at 8:56 pm |

    There have been lawsuits in the U.S. over similar photography projects. One I recall in particular:

    Philip-Lorca diCorcia though, thought he was on safe ground when he set up strobe rigs in New York in 2006 and photographed people walking down the street. He didn’t put the photos on ads or mount them on billboards. He placed them in an exhibition and sold them as prints.

    And he was sued by Emo Nussenzweig, an Orthodox Jew, who appeared in one of the photos and considered the sale both an invasion of his privacy and a breach of his religious rights.

    The court ruled that although ten copies of the images had sold for up to $30,000 each, they were still considered works of art, were not commercial and were therefore protected under the First Amendment.

    Law.com Link

  8. Tori
    Tori September 6, 2011 at 10:18 pm |

    I also find this project problematic.

    As for the expressions themselves — I’m doing a Thing where I take a pic of myself everyday (that I remember) in order to get used to my appearance — including facial expressions — in a variety of situations. I have self-portraits with facial expressions similar to about 10 of the 14 photos in the “Watching You Watch Me” project, where the actual “emotion” involved on my end is as neutral as thinking/processing/focusing/concentrating.

  9. Chataya
    Chataya September 6, 2011 at 10:57 pm |

    It might be because I’m too busy being incredibly creeped out by this douchebag’s pretentious privacy violations in the name of art, but most of those expressions look fairly neutral to me.

    Shockingly, it is possible to be happy with yourself without having a vapid smile plastered on your face every time you catch a reflective surface.

  10. EG
    EG September 6, 2011 at 11:18 pm |

    Leaving aside the dubious ethics of taking pictures of people without their permission (my grandfather likes to do this when he travels to distant locales; when I pointed out that this was rude and not OK, and that he needs to ask permission, because people are not objets d’art, he said “But if I ask, they’ll probably say no!” Right, I said, and then you don’t do it. Then he said that they have bad reasons for saying no, like believing the camera steals their soul or something–I think the people in question were highly traditional, conservative, religious people of some sort–so that it didn’t matter if they said no. At which point I threw up my hands, after pointing out that it really doesn’t matter what their reasons are; it doesn’t make what he’s doing any less rude.), I just don’t see the disapproval, dismay, or disgust that the OP does.

    I see people glancing at mirrors placed to their side as they walk by, and what that suggests to me is that their expressions are unlikely to have anything to do with their feelings about their looks. When I’m walking down the street, my expression is often very hostile and/or closed-off, in order to put off possible harassers. Or I look worried because I’m worrying about something. Or I look annoyed because I’ve left the house 20 minutes late, and now I’m not going to make it to the meeting I’m going to on time. While I do like my appearance, catching a look at myself out of the corner of my eye as I go by is not such an uplifting experience as to cause me to forget about these concerns and wreathe my face in smiles.

  11. CassandraSays
    CassandraSays September 7, 2011 at 1:43 am |

    Being pretentious doesn’t mean you have a right to violate other people’s privacy.

    Also, I’m not convinced that all of the people in those photos couldn’t see the photographer. Some of them definitely look like they can see her and are giving her a “WTF do you think you’re doing? get lost” look.

    Ethics aside, Angel has a point – a lot of women are trained not to look at themselves in a positive way. I can clearly remember aunts and my grandmother (the evil one) telling me to “stop admiring yourself” when I would look in the mirror as a child. In this case of both evil granny and even more evil aunt, this was often accompanied by a smack on the back of the head hard enough to jar my teeth. I suppose that was intended to teach me not to be vain – in reality it just taught me to dislike my aunt and grandmother. And also that as a girl/woman, if at any point you admit to not being totally 100% unhappy with your appearance, it will make other people resent you.

    It ties into a lot of other social bonding stuff between women, like the tendency for women in groups to bond over how much they hate their thighs, etc. I think it’s fucked up, and I try not to participate, but again, not participating is often read as vain, and vain is a sin (if you’re a woman) and makes you a bad person (again, only if you’re a woman – it’s apparently OK for men to think well of themselves).

  12. Effy
    Effy September 7, 2011 at 2:03 am |

    I agree with everyone else who said that the whole project is troublesome. Others have explained why taking photos and then publishing them without asking for permission bothers them, and I don’t think that I have anything to add.

    Generally, I find the whole culture of “give us a smile” annoying and troublesome as well. I’m talking about people, especially women, being expected to have a welcoming friendly smile plastered on their face all the time.
    You say how it sucks when strangers glare at you, but are you really talking about glaring or simply a neutral expression that is not a smile? I see the same neutral expression in the faces I have looked at on Karlberg’s site. Either that or the “do I have something on my nose?” face. I think it’s a bit of an overreach to conclude from that that people are too unhappy with themselves or anything of that sort.

    If the photos had been published with subjects’ permission, I’d have no objection to them, as an interesting art project. I know that people would still interpret it in different ways, some the way you do. Everyone can interpret art as they like, but I don’t agree with the conclusion you draw about people in general. The advice you give is not really bad, it encourages people to think better about themselves but I don’t think that has all that much to do with smiling. I can and do look sometimes in a mirror with a totally serious expression and still can think how freaking awesome I am.

    Oh, also : the first link doesn’t work for me. Page not found.

  13. Aydan
    Aydan September 7, 2011 at 7:50 am |

    Thirding the “they look neutral to me.” I don’t usually smile when I see myself in a reflective surface, even though I often like what I see. Aesthetic appreciation isn’t something I usually smile over, and if I smiled, I’d change what I was looking at! That probably sounds pretty vain, but.

    Also thirding or fourthing or whatever the being creeped out by this project. It kind of makes me want to go around with a mask on.

  14. evil fizz
    evil fizz September 7, 2011 at 7:56 am |

    Hrm. The link is giving me a 404 error.

  15. Sara
    Sara September 7, 2011 at 8:26 am |

    I also think all but one or two of the faces look neutral, and the 14th one actually looks pleased. I check myself in windows and the like all the time – and even though I sometimes dislike my own appearance, I’m certainly not going to forget what I look like. I usually tend to assume that I look OK (or at least “normal me”) until presented with evidence otherwise. That means that I’ll likely be either unsurprised or (occasionally) disappointed when I see myself.

  16. Sarah
    Sarah September 7, 2011 at 8:53 am |

    Agreeing with what people are saying about the whole project being unethical – it’s arguably unfair to ever take a picture of someone when they aren’t looking (although I will admit that I’ve done it before) and to publish it in an art project when you know the people don’t look at their best and can suspect that they wouldn’t want the picture published…it’s problematic, to say the least.

    But if the ethical issues could be resolved – and I’m not sure how that would happen or if it is even possible – I think that if you want to look at how people look at themselves, a better place to take the pictures might be behind the bathroom mirror at a nice restaurant, someplace where people (many women, at least) really do stop and check to see how they look as opposed to just glancing in a mirror as they walk by.

  17. Shoshie
    Shoshie September 7, 2011 at 8:57 am |

    I also found this disturbing. As a fat chick, I’m pretty used to public photography being used as a tool of oppression. I’m always terrified that the headless fatty at the top of the news article is me. So I have a pretty visceral reaction to seeing photographs of unknowing subjects and reading an analysis of what they might have been feeling. Urgh.

    I ran a lit/art mag for a while, and we always made sure that the subjects in the art had consented to their images being published. May not be strictly required by law, but so important.

  18. Autumn Whitefield-Madrano
    Autumn Whitefield-Madrano September 7, 2011 at 9:07 am |

    Ooh, this is so up my alley! I went a month without looking in the mirror, not so much because I didn’t like what I saw (sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t) but because of the enormous self-consciousness it invites. When I think of my “mirror face” I’m embarrassed…and yet I still do it every time. It’s not so much that I’m glaring or even projecting any particular emotion; it’s that I’m performing anything. I’m performing to myself.

    If anyone’s interested in reading about my experiment you can read the collection of my essays on the matter here.

    Also, UCLA sociology PhD candidate Kjerstin Gruys is going a full year without looking in the mirror–she comes at it more from a body-image angle, and her work is interesting.

  19. Marcie
    Marcie September 7, 2011 at 9:40 am |

    Effy:
    Oh, also : the first link doesn’t work for me. Page not found.

    HTML formating error, me thinks.
    Delete the “” in your adress bar when you’re on the “404 page” after clicking the link and it works alright.

  20. Marcie
    Marcie September 7, 2011 at 9:44 am |

    Can’t write what to delete, since it’s filtered out due to being a html tag.
    Nevermind

  21. La Lubu
    La Lubu September 7, 2011 at 9:48 am |

    Oh, great. Now I can be expected to perform even when I glance at myself? Because who knows who else might be looking and judging me on the appropriateness of my expression, or assuming my momentary expression is reflectings some Deep Thoughts about myself and my place in the world?

    (Remember girls, smile!)

    Here, lemme save you the trouble. I’m an overworked single mother with two jobs, who will readily admit that some of my heavy schedule is my own fault, taking on tasks that nurture my soul (but make me physically tired, nonetheless). I know exactly where my “place” is on the continuum of Respect, and it makes me angry if I don’t consciously take the time out to find peace. My financial situation is precarious (hence the taking on of a second, part-time job) due to over a decade of the fucking Rust Belt economy as well as our fucked-up USian insurance-based healthcare system that drops the bottom out of everyone when they use it in a Big Way (google “what color are the holes in your parachute?). I spent the past half year watching my mother die in a really ugly way (fuck cancer). Half the time my thyroid isn’t functioning, because our healthcare delivery system in the US rewards physicians for giving as little treatment as possible—which has repercussions for my health. There’s rumors of layoffs, and if that happens I’ll lose my healthcare entirely. And I’m in Some Mood today, too.

    Even in the best of times, I have unruly hair, a hard stare, my lips turn downward at the corners in my “neutral” expression just like the rest of my ancestors…..so in the midst of a society that is more accustomed to looking at faces of advertising or mass media, scrubbed clean, made over and performance-ready, I’m noted as one of those proles that isn’t Making Nice.

    Watch how I watch myself? How about watch how you watch me. Note how often you turn me into just another background object whose lesson boils down to “don’t be her.”

  22. Sarah
    Sarah September 7, 2011 at 10:11 am |

    I think I would like to go ahead and pretend that there IS a voyeuristic, camera-toting Swede on the other side of all the shiny surfaces of my life. This will not only make my life feel more exciting, but also encourage more funny-face-making on a regular basis. :)

  23. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. September 7, 2011 at 10:13 am |

    I’m surprised that no one has pointed out that they may not be looking at themselves in the mirrored reflection. Or am I the only one who thinks its interesting to see the world walking by in a mirror?

  24. samanthab
    samanthab September 7, 2011 at 10:20 am |

    Caperton, that crap is not unique to the South. Sadly! I heard it all the freaking time when I was at Berkeley. Uh, sometimes I like to think and be contemplative rather than perform for strange dudes? I don’t think I’d give the finger as response, as I used to, in the small Southern town I currently live in, however. I question that wisdom of that approach anywhere, given that weird men can of course get weirder upon interaction. Sometimes ! react with emotion rather than wisdom!! Emotion and derogatory sign language!

  25. RBT
    RBT September 7, 2011 at 12:12 pm |

    Interesting that some commenters have automatically assumed the photographer was male.

    Do these objections about invasion of privacy extend to all street photography? (A photography genre of which there are quiiiiite a few photographers, including diCorcia who was mentioned above, and every hipster college photography student evaarrr.) Tourists snapping people unawares and then putting the photos online? Surveillance cameras? Sometimes I quickly check my face in car windows only to find that there is a person sitting in the seat, which always seems like kind of a rude shock.

    Basic question: do people feel like they’re doing something private when they look at their own reflection in public? Or also, what makes this worse than regular street photography?

  26. CassandraSays
    CassandraSays September 7, 2011 at 12:34 pm |

    Not to be Captain Obvious here, but isn’t Sweden also rather cold in the winter? Most of these people seem to be bundled up, and I know that when I’m cold my facial expression probably doesn’t radiate joy.

  27. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. September 7, 2011 at 12:57 pm |

    If someone is taking street photos I can *see* them and walk around or avoid. If they are taking random shots of crowds from a distance, then eh who cares. But these are headshots. Up close and very personal. And yes, there is a certain privacy in walking around in a large group, often I’m caught in my own thoughts. So while I’m physically present I’m in a psychologically private place. Its the same reason its impolite to stare at someone in public.

  28. Tony
    Tony September 7, 2011 at 1:02 pm |

    I have a similar question to RBT. Living in Washington DC, there is a political rally here practically every day, and I have occasionally been out there with my camera snapping photos without asking people, although occasionally I will talk to people. I will also videotape people having (public) arguments about political issues without asking. In those cases I’m very visible and I assume that if they don’t want to be taped, they can say so. If someone is marching in a protest, they are fair game, right?

  29. RBT
    RBT September 7, 2011 at 1:20 pm |

    Yeah, it’s a really strange fuzzy line between where public ends and private begins on the street. On the one hand, I agree with Kristen J – hence my always being disconcerted when I see someone on the other side of the glass. One the other hand, I agree with Tony. It *is* possible to get photographed in public in a big city without having any clue, particularly if you’re totally off in your own little world like me. I guess that’s why I think it’s hard to declare this particular set of photographs “problematic” without calling into question vast swaths of modern photography too.

  30. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan September 7, 2011 at 1:28 pm |

    Thirding the “they look neutral to me.” I don’t usually smile when I see myself in a reflective surface, even though I often like what I see. Aesthetic appreciation isn’t something I usually smile over, and if I smiled, I’d change what I was looking at!

    Yeah, if I smile it’s usually to send a specific message to other people around me who cannot read my mind — if a little kid is being noisy or cute or just present sometimes I’ll try to look particularly pleasant or happy when I glance at them, to make it clear I’m not disapproving of them — but when I’m not actively performing happiness I often look pretty neutral. I certainly don’t have to perform happiness to myself, because I can read my own mind and I know that I approve without having to show it on my face.

    I will say that I have been practicing looking at myself and loving it, and even smiling at myself or doing the “heeeeey!” finger guns or whatever, but that’s only in my bathroom mirror by myself! :p It’s like singing goofily in the shower — just because I don’t do it in public doesn’t mean I hate myself or am ashamed, it just means I’ve got my public face on in public.

  31. Jadey
    Jadey September 7, 2011 at 1:29 pm |

    RBT: Interesting that some commenters have automatically assumed the photographer was male.

    I just re-read the whole thread and couldn’t find anyone who used male pronouns for the photographer. Some of us used female pronouns and the rest avoided the pronoun issue altogether, which is inconclusive. I find it interesting that you’ve seen misgendering where there isn’t any.

    As for the issue with street photography, it’s the fact that these are essentially personal portrait shots, not face-in-a-crowd scenarios. I don’t like my friends taking my picture and posting them online, much less a stranger who cares more about being edgy than ethical.

  32. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan September 7, 2011 at 1:32 pm |

    Not to be Captain Obvious here, but isn’t Sweden also rather cold in the winter? Most of these people seem to be bundled up, and I know that when I’m cold my facial expression probably doesn’t radiate joy.

    Ha, I totally thought this too! They look like the are in the cold, or even have a bit of glare from the sun — especially guys # 1, 4 and 11. I would definitely be kind of frowny and squinty in that situation as well.

  33. samanthab
    samanthab September 7, 2011 at 1:56 pm |

    Tony, that depends whether they are on public or private property. Yes, on public. Not without permission from the property owner on private. Also, some landmarks may have restrictions.

  34. Sanoe
    Sanoe September 7, 2011 at 2:02 pm |

    RBT:
    Interesting that some commenters have automatically assumed the photographer was male.

    I don’t see that.

  35. RBT
    RBT September 7, 2011 at 2:28 pm |

    Hah, good point. You’re right, actually – the only somewhat male gendered pronoun used above is “douchebag” (ambiguous itself!). So comment retracted. As to my own attribution of misgendering… I wonder if it’s in part because it seems like these dicussions of private vs. public in photography usually come about from discussions of cellphone upskirt shots and the like – the *extreme* end of the public vs. private photography debate.

  36. Effy
    Effy September 7, 2011 at 2:32 pm |

    I don’t like my friends taking my picture and posting them online, much less a stranger who cares more about being edgy than ethical.

    I would just like to second that.

  37. Q Grrl
    Q Grrl September 7, 2011 at 6:36 pm |

    Karlberg writes:

    Since the pictures are taken in public spaces, I can publish them however I want to. At least in Sweden, where the laws are generous to journalists and artists. But in which forums and publications does the single individual feel insulted? “Watching you watch me” is an effort to create debate on laws and ethics within the photographer’s role.

    Asshole indeed! what with her talk of laws and ethics!

  38. JDP
    JDP September 8, 2011 at 12:19 am |

    Beyond the ethics issues, I’m also going to point out that photography collections aren’t just a secret perspective into things. There’s a significant aspect of curation involved. The photographer probably took tens of thousands of photographs and those dozen or so pictures were the ones chosen to be controversial or artistic or worthy of contemplation or discussion.

    So perhaps the issue isn’t that people make forlorn and haunted faces when they look in the mirror, but that the photographer thought that people making forlorn and haunted faces in the mirror was most likely to generate discussion.

  39. Amanda Marcotte
    Amanda Marcotte September 8, 2011 at 6:48 am |

    The thing is, most positive emotions are in fact performed for other people. Research has shown that people enjoying something funny by themselves rarely laugh or even smile. They aren’t enjoying it *less*, but laughter is performed for others. It’s a bonding thing.

    Therefore, we can’t really judge the expressions of people having private emotions by the standards of what expressions people show on their faces looking at others.

  40. Mirror-Face & “Watching You Watching Me” – Moa Karlberg (The Beheld) | Autodespair

    [...] and photographed subjects looking at themselves, unaware they were being photographed. (Thanks to Caperton at Feministe for the link.) Karlberg’s written intention for the series indicated that she wanted it to be a [...]

  41. Alex
    Alex September 8, 2011 at 9:41 am |

    I think it’s funny (in a completely unfunny way) that the linked-to post makes clear that they’re using her photos with her permission. Ah, yes the images of real people who were unaware they were being photographed and dissected are now her artistic property! Gross.

    I find that when I’m walking in public I try to avoid looking at myself in reflections/windows so as to not seem ‘vain’, and that if I do it’s out of the corner of my eye. I would never smile at my reflection because, well, that would indicate that I’m ‘really into myself’. Effing patriarchy.

  42. Jadey
    Jadey September 8, 2011 at 4:30 pm |

    Q Grrl:
    Karlberg writes:

    Asshole indeed! what with her talk of laws and ethics!

    Well, yes. She demonstrated that she is cognizant of the ethical implications of what she did, which makes her an asshole instead of just clueless. In this case, “start a debate” sounds like code for “be edgy and controversial” seeing as she decided to start that debate publicizing other people’s images without their knowledge or consent. I detest when people talk about starting a debate without any consideration to the forum in which that debate will happen. At what point do the unconsenting subjects of her stunt get a chance to respond in an equivalent way? She has the status of artist in this case – what leverage do the passers-by have to respond with? “Start a debate” is a phrase I heard a lot when my undergraduate newspaper started publishing racist screeds and then refused to print letters to the editor responding to them. Some debate indeed.

  43. Q Grrl
    Q Grrl September 8, 2011 at 4:44 pm |

    You see these people as victims then? I give them a little more credit than that.

  44. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. September 8, 2011 at 6:24 pm |

    Q Grrl: You see these people as victims then? I give them a little more credit than that.

    Its impossible to know whether they are victims because they weren’t consulted and we haven’t heard how they feel about it. If she had photographed me (or others on this thread), I would feel violated and I would likely pursue any legal action available. Also, I would raise hell going forward until my image was removed.

  45. Jadey
    Jadey September 8, 2011 at 6:42 pm |

    Q Grrl:
    You see these people as victims then? I give them a little more credit than that.

    I did not use the word victims or a synonym at any point because I don’t think of them that way. There is, however, a power dynamic here, and she’s not on the low side of it – she exploited people for her work and tried to pass it off as being intellectually challenging and superior. As a researcher who uses human beings as subjects, respecting the agency and personal integrity of my participants and my capacity to harm them is crucial to me and the integrity of my work, which is why I work within the bounds of informed consent. (Whether or not they are all harmed by my actions is not the point, but the reasonably foreseeable potential for harm). She was being egocentric and put her self and her ideas over the people on whom her work depended.

  46. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan September 8, 2011 at 7:12 pm |

    You see these people as victims then? I give them a little more credit than that.

    Credit for doing what?

  47. Charity
    Charity September 8, 2011 at 8:13 pm |

    Jadey: I just re-read the whole thread and couldn’t find anyone who used male pronouns for the photographer. Some of us used female pronouns and the rest avoided the pronoun issue altogether, which is inconclusive. I find it interesting that you’ve seen misgendering where there isn’t any.

    Ditto. Who assumed the photographer was male?

  48. Charity
    Charity September 8, 2011 at 8:14 pm |

    Whoops, messed up the blockquote. Thirding what was already said.

  49. Q Grrl
    Q Grrl September 9, 2011 at 10:08 am |

    But she didn’t “violate privacy” — at least not by Sweden’s standards. Which I took to be part of her point. I took her project to be saying “look, by law, this is acceptable, but when you ask people about it, it is obviously much more problematic”. Was there harm done? That would be very difficult to prove – even for those who were uncomfortable with their images being captured. Surely the discomfort is the same felt by self-conscious people whenever they are in public. Or is it somehow heightened because it proves to self-conscious people that other people *do* look at them? At what point is the public responsible for people’s internal self-perception? …I do think that point exists, but I’m obviously drawing it at a far different point then a lot of the commentators here.

    As far as my comment “give them more credit” — I am assuming that many of those photographed will have a healthy self-image and will be able to judge for themselves if the point of this project goes too far, or if the greater point of ethics is one worth taking a relatively painless lesson from. Sorta like taking one for the team if the outcome is that this sort of project is unethical.

  50. Q Grrl
    Q Grrl September 9, 2011 at 10:11 am |

    As a researcher who uses human beings as subjects, respecting the agency and personal integrity of my participants and my capacity to harm them is crucial to me and the integrity of my work, which is why I work within the bounds of informed consent.

    This is 2011, however. Do we need informed consent to appear in public? Because, as all of us are aware, our images are being captured routinely, daily, in multiple formats, and for multiple, often secretive purposes. How can we be okay with the State using our images without our permission, but throw up our arms over a project that is trying to expand the ethics of public vs private images? Isn’t that a little mis-placed?

  51. Jadey
    Jadey September 9, 2011 at 12:22 pm |

    Q Grrl: As far as my comment “give them more credit” — I am assuming that many of those photographed will have a healthy self-image and will be able to judge for themselves if the point of this project goes too far, or if the greater point of ethics is one worth taking a relatively painless lesson from. Sorta like taking one for the team if the outcome is that this sort of project is unethical.

    But that’s my frustration – she never gave anyone the opportunity to speak! I think you are giving the artist too much credit – my experience with many artists is that while they give their work a gloss of political discourse, really they are more concerned with impression management and making sure their colleagues think of them as properly incisive and controversial, rather than actually making a meaningful point. (I also know many amazing artists who do genuinely challenging work, but no profession – and it is a profession – is immune to crap.) I’m not disagreeing with her ideas, but her execution, which I think was ham-handed and poor and did very little to contribute to the debate around the ethics of surveillance for all that she exploited her subjects.

    Q Grrl: This is 2011, however. Do we need informed consent to appear in public? Because, as all of us are aware, our images are being captured routinely, daily, in multiple formats, and for multiple, often secretive purposes. How can we be okay with the State using our images without our permission, but throw up our arms over a project that is trying to expand the ethics of public vs private images? Isn’t that a little mis-placed?

    Who said I was okay with the government doing things like this than I am this artist? I have been railing against people posting my image online on sites like Facebook where it is archived and against invasive backscatter machines for airport security. I don’t see how her project did anything to substantively address these issues in a format that encourages dialogue. In fact, I think her methods suppressed dialogue, by forcing her subjects to remain passive by not engaging them in her process. Informed consent is not an obstacle to art or research – it’s a scaffold for a better structure.

    I’m not saying that there should be a law against what this woman did. I think if we tried to legislate assholes, we’d be up shit creek in short order. But it doesn’t make her less of a sensationalist, short-sighed, unethical, exploitative asshole. Not to me.

  52. Ens
    Ens September 9, 2011 at 2:43 pm |

    Whether or not this is a privacy violation by Sweden’s laws, it is a privacy violation by me.

    Just because “the State” does something wrong does not mean that it’s okay for others to do it. Furthermore, I don’t generally see the state publishing these images to the public either (you said it yourself: “secretive purposes”), so there is a difference anyway.

    And I’m not sure why it’s a good thing to assume that everybody has a healthy self-image and go and do a thing that’s quite damaging to those who don’t, or why anybody should be forced to “take one for the team” for a nebulous “greater point of ethics”.

  53. Q Grrl
    Q Grrl September 9, 2011 at 3:55 pm |

    I’m not disagreeing with her ideas, but her execution, which I think was ham-handed and poor and did very little to contribute to the debate around the ethics of surveillance for all that she exploited her subjects.

    And I do think this is where I am giving her the benefit of the doubt. To me it seems natural that there is a little more back-story to this issue than what we’re getting in a blog snippet of the issue. I do see it as a violation; but I don’t see her as an asshole b/c to me it seems that dialogue has already sprung from her actions. As controversial as it may be, I think that public dialogue does come at a price to some (I really can’t imagine a way for it not to, but that may be *my* shortcoming).

    @ Ens

    And I’m not sure why it’s a good thing to assume that everybody has a healthy self-image and go and do a thing that’s quite damaging to those who don’t, or why anybody should be forced to “take one for the team” for a nebulous “greater point of ethics”.

    But we already do this. It’s either referred to as “medicine” or “clinical trials” and most everyone seems okay with this because money changes hands.

  54. Matt
    Matt September 9, 2011 at 7:59 pm |

    I guess I’m just weird. I laugh and talk to myself and smile a lot and repeat funny things people say to myself when I’m enjoying something alone. Although if I’m getting a rush its different, like, then I’m just focused. But if its funny, or i’m feeling really ecstatic or nostalgic or something I “perform happiness.”

    Amanda Marcotte:
    The thing is, most positive emotions are in fact performed for other people.Research has shown that people enjoying something funnyby themselves rarely laugh or even smile.They aren’t enjoying it *less*, but laughter is performed for others.It’s a bonding thing.

    Therefore, we can’t really judge the expressions of people having private emotions by the standards of what expressions people show on their faces looking at others.

  55. Alexis
    Alexis September 10, 2011 at 8:36 pm |

    My college decided that weird one-way-mirror type windows are awesome and covered our main academic complex with them. Daytime you can see whats happening outside but they cant see in and nighttime you can see inside but they cant see out. Which leads to some great moments during the day where you can stand in a hall and watch people check themselves out. Which is why I try to avoid checking myself out in shiny surfaces (still do sometimes if im not sure how my outfit looks). It sucks during a night class though–except for the time we watched a film featuring live birth in vivid detail for a night class right by the cafe….bet we put some poor kids off their dinners >:)

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