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Jennifer Stamm
Department: Design
Year: Senior
Class: DES 525

Effects Affect—Creative Practice as Protest

The growing use of photo-editing applications is leading to a drastic increase in body dysmorphia and, consequently, plastic surgery amongst their users, as people [and, more alarmingly, children] fixate on the idealized versions of themselves. Additionally, with applications like Snapchat, Instagram, and Facetune many of the photo filters automatically alter the user’s face (by smoothing out the texture of the skin, enlarging the eyes, and modifying the shape of the face, etc.) with the filter’s activation, and without the person’s consent. Ultimately, this action reveals “imperfections” in the user’s appearance (so deemed by the application) that they might not otherwise have been cognizant of and finally exposes them to a “corrected” version of how they could look. Personal observation of this feature confirmed how distressing it is to alternate between one’s true appearance and an improved variation—especially when there is a huge disparity between the two. By exposing us to said modifications, these apps have complicated our decision to continue representing ourselves as we are, and most disturbing, suggested that there is nothing unethical with such duplicitous behavior.
The filter developers (users) and the companies, themselves, are the target for the EFFECTS AFFECT protest, which light-heartedly encourages a more thoughtful approach in the construction of this growing AR technology, in order to help combat the extreme [and unobtainable] societal ambition to appear flawless. The “When You’re Hot, You’re Hot” filter (pg. 1) emphasizes how consumed we’ve become with our appearance, to the point of being completely oblivious to our surroundings—even something as catastrophic as a wall of flames spreading behind us. The project also includes a series of three stickers (pg. 2), which acknowledges the absurdity of airbrushing one’s self into oblivion by, instead, embracing the “problem areas” that the photo-editing applications are so readily trying to cover up. The highly saturated colors draw attention to the stickers, further emphasizing their body-positive slogans. The final piece of the series, a pop-socket (pg. 3), poignantly includes the slogan, “Selfie-Improvement IS NOT Self-Improvement,” with the intention of reminding the consumer of its message every time they go to take a selfie.

By incorporating “#FilterFighters” into every piece of EFFECTS AFFECT, the series is anchored to a movement, encouraging the spread of the message throughout all social media—the very platform it intends to transform.