The Social Photo: On Photography and Social Media

AUTHOR: Nathan Jurgenson

PUBLISHER: Verso Books

YEAR: 2019


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This book lives in an interesting niche and some parts of it already feel almost dated. That said Nathan Jurgenson‘s „The Social Photo“ is a fascinating tour through the social functions and meanings of photography. Starting even before photography even existed to the fast and cheap medium of today.

It‘s an interesting perspective on daily live based not on technology, but the social components and practices surrounding the medium. If you‘re interested in the evolution and effects of social media, this might be the book for you.

One of the most important parts is Jurgenson’s critique of what he describes as “digital dualism”, meaning the notion of viewing the digital as a completely separate world to the physical realm.

But this idea that we are trading the offline for the online, though it dominates how many think of the digital and the physical, is myopic. It fails to capture the plain fact that our lived reality is the result of the constant interpenetration of the online and offline. The Web has everything to do with reality; it contains real people with real bodies, histories, and politics. We live in a mixed, augmented reality in which materiality and information, physicality and digitality, bodies and technology, atoms and bits, the offline and the online all intersect. It is incorrect to say “IRL” to mean offline: the Internet is real life. It is the fetish objects of the offline and the disconnected that are not real.