Posts tagged “body image”

This Year’s Virtual Model

Not new, but new to me: Lands’ End Virtual Model, allowing people to shop online for clothes and see what the clothes would look like on a person. The idea is that the person is you, the shopper, but there’s a fundamental disconnect between projection onto a mannequin (digital, even) and projection into a mirror. The person in the mirror is us. It doesn’t approximate us, it looks exactly like us and it naturally moves in response to our every movement. The virtual model is clumsy in comparison.

I think the whole notion of seeing the clothes in context is (including in combination) is brilliant, but I think the conceit (and it really is just that) of presenting this us a projection of us is completely wrong. Looking in the mirror is the gold standard and this breaks that badly. There’s a lot of customization (just like an avatar builder) of height, weight, body type, skin tone, hair style, etc.

So I started with

Umm, hello, body image norms?

and eventually customized him/me/it to end up with

Umm, is it weird to post this? It’s virtual, but the concept suggests this approximates what I look like in my underpants. I can tell you not to worry, it really doesn’t, but the idea seems a bit transgressive, because of the level of accuracy we expect from representations. A photograph isn’t me, but carries a certain truth. Also don’t worry, no actual underpants pictures of me are coming up in this post either.

As for the virtual me, I think we’ll feel better if he/me has some clothes on!


Frankly, I think this Simpsons avatar is more true version of me, even though it abandons reality, it also offers a kernel of truth and overall feels more accurate.

Update: maybe the avatar isn’t meant to be a model, but instead an effective salesperson?

Manipulating Social Realities With Technology

One stance is that technology is neither inherently good or bad, it’s what we do with it, as humans with the ability to choose and judge and reflect our own cultural norms, that’s where the morality comes in. Of course, there are any number of agents along the way to actual use. Those that package a technology in a way that instructs in its usage may persaude or encourage behaviors that are not “approved” of. We see the media blaming cell phones, texting, the Internet whenever possible – it’s a better headline than to blame a gun, or a parent, or a person. Where does the accountability lie?

An emerging special case is the set of technologies that we can use to misrepresent reality to others. The first that caught my eye (back in 2004) was SoundCover (company website is now defunct, but story is here), software that would play fake background noises over your mobile phone, to add credence to an excuse (i.e., “I’m stuck in traffic.”). A more recent mobile twist is the popularity dialer that will automatically call you at pre-arranged times so you can look popular, or fake an exit from a bad date, or whatever. Hacking social norms and faking reality through technology.

Those are both sort of high-schoolish in concept and implementation, but the super-geekery (and with it, super-powers) come in a couple of tools for digital photography. HP has some software built into their digital cameras that automatically slims the subjects of the photo, while some software in development in Israel will automatically beautify women’s faces. Tourist Remover carries less cultural baggage and lets you get the picture you never really got, by taking a few pictures of the same scene and putting together a composite without all those other pesky people.

HP’s entry is the most surprising, for a rather cautious organization, it seems pretty brazen. Every week is another indicator of our culture’s poor health (X-rays don’t work as well because people are too fat, toilet seats are being redesigned for fatter butts, etc. etc.), and of course our body image standard doesn’t change in the same direction. Is this technology for vanity? Or worse? Or is it any better than correcting red-eye? Or removing a blemish in Photoshop? Where do we cross the line from correcting photography to faking reality, and when is that line-crossing a problem?

[Thanks, JZC, for the HP tip]

Those Dove ads

originally uploaded by minusbaby.

Great column that calls out what has tickled the back of my brain but never formed into a real thought – these ads purport to acknowledge and salute the fact that real women have all sorts of body types besides what you normally see in advertising, but the product they are selling is firming cream, designed to conceal or alter the body, making it closer to the “thin” ideal. I’m sure there’s some spin Dove puts on it, but really it’s a great point. Do we (or, at least, women) love ourselves for who we are, or do we try to fix things up? Seems like Dove is doing a pretty good job at having it both ways. Brilliant, yet more than a little evil.


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