lunes, 21 de septiembre de 2015

Cristina Ortega Domínguez

 Nowadays, carrying around mobile devices capable of capturing images to be called “photographies”, as well as the ease with which technology allows us to publish them on social networks, is a fact that has become naturalized, opening up for the receptor a channel of multiple interpretations. Likewise, that same device grants us unnumbered ways to modify them, systematize them, automate them or even plagiarize them. As a consequence, this fact has so great an impact on society that the new generations take it for granted, and make a habit of something that has barely begun to be the subject of research in order to differentiate its becoming adapted from its becoming naturalized, and meet due regulations a posteriori.

This habit of “sharing” images on social media encourages anonymity and under that guise new hazards for web surfers have come into play, such as identity theft, hacking, trolling, stoking...

The fact that this is a “naturalized” phenomenon that has been welcome by a number of human societies, does not prove that it has been “normalized”, since there are no norms harnessing the aforementioned possibilities that pose potential harm for web surfers.

Investigating the authorship of an image that has been published in social media calls for a multidisciplinary approach, in order to yield a transdiciplinary outcome; that is, a crossbreed between different theories and sciences.  Cultural identity, vernacular semiotics, personal semiotics of the web surfer, as well as knowledge both of the device and of the structure of the picture itself, render data about the identity behind the sought-for anonymous.  In the same manner, Gestalt principles of image, ophthalmology, together with knowledge of photography optics and neuroscience –among other sciences-, are at the same time components and foundation of the object of study of this investigation –still in trial mode- called Psychography: Drawings Of The Mind.

 Many photography experts and communicators use the expression “Democratization of image” to describe the masses’ widespread consumption of mobile devices with apps for capturing images instantly. It leads us to the etymological definition of our subject, “democracy”:

1.       Political system where the people freely elect those who govern them. Liberties were reinstated in Spain and censorship ended as transition and democracy came about.

2.       Doctrine or notion that safeguards the people’s participation in important matters of government: democracy is the political ideal because government is by the people.

If images shared over social networks are ruled by society (vox populi), then it is important to mention the conditions imposed on users by each social network. The most popular social networks allow postings that can later be censored; for instance, the naked human body, due to explicit sexual content (in whose opinion?), or by the interpretative discomfort of another user/receptor.

But let us not digress about limitations that social networks adopt and impose on their users. The purpose of psychographic research is getting to know, as closely as possible, the identity of the anonymous person generating the image, regardless of the obviated, observable content.

First world governments of our time invest in research and studies in order to detect -a priori- negative events that hurt society. Those countries are worried about the widespread use and/or free-access democratization and communication costs of networks that are harmful to their nations. In less pandemic terms, it is important to exert some “control” or to be able to detect –a priori- who are the ones inflicting harassment, stealing identities, among other hazards against smaller sectors such as the community where we belong or even every society’s basic cell: the family.

It is easy to mix up the various applications of Psychography. First of all because it’s a new, propositive tool. Like any new object or event, it must be compared to something in order to comprehend it or use it.

This study -born in Mexico nine years ago-, is still in the testing phase. However, from the perspective that it is expounded, a barrier stands in the way: our current Constitution, because according to it no offense can be prosecuted until it becomes consummated. That is why fellow nationals are not interested in the early detection of acts that might be illegal. However, this pursuit spreads widely on its own, throughout the social network, reaching people interested in preventing unlawful acts.

In Mexico, those who have donated their images for study and examination are pioneers who hold Psychography in high regard.  Psychography comprehends -both at individual and collective levels- that mental map that automates us as society. Its therapeutic application came about per se. But, as we explained before, there is a pandemic of other applications stemming from the data and projection offered by images. For every nation and individual, there is an application.

Statements by authors who support research. How can an image “reveal” the identity of the one who captured it? In order not to dwell on long-winded explanations, let us just say that technocracy has enshrouded the possibilities of new, simple tools: observation and a multidisciplinary approach. These two allow for a simple outcome which at the same time is complex because of its transdisciplinariety.  It all lies in knowing how to observe the image that has been offered us for its psychographical reading, divide it in the number of quadrants proposed by the study itself, and “interpret” the gestaltic lines captured in the picture. This is based in the fact that our eyes are conscious of one ninth of whatever image they see, or 30% of it2. The remaining of the image is visual unconsciousness. A projection from the subconscious can very likely take place in 70% of the perimeter, which the eye sees without being aware of it. Let us gradually unfold an explanation about this, quoting several authors’ definitions.

Consciousness. Rooted in the Latin voice conscientia (“with knowledge”), consciousness is a word that describes the physical act by means of which we perceive ourselves in the world. Furthermore, consciousness is a property of the human spirit that allows us to see ourselves in terms of essential attributes. Let’s not forget that the word “psyche” -of Greek origins-, translates as a duality: mind and/or soul. That might be the origin of the phrase, “eyes are windows to the soul”.

Focus. “State of mind that lets us fix our attention on something without getting distracted”. In photo composition we talk about points of interest and the Rule of Thirds. This makes the viewer aware of the obviated subject, without straying from the symbolic load that it confers semiotically on every culture. This is dealt with in the book Blind Spot.

“Never before had anyone noticed a blind spot in the eye. Actually, that blind spot is very sneaky and cannot be detected by chance. Even if we close one eye and look around, we won’t be able to detect it unless we diligently seek for it”5.

Fortunately, not everyone who uses cameras or mobile devices with apps for image capturing is familiar with these explanations, neither knowledgeable about the devices being used. He is not expected too. That is why they are called “users”. We are not talking here about photographers.
2 2008 Campimetry, Optical Instruments, University of Barcelona; Fontanela J. R., Grau M.

3 Definition of Consciousness – What It Is, Meaning and Concept

5 Blind Spot. Lobo Enrique y Gómez Milán Emilio

 “From this it follows that perception is largely dependent on memory”. Bergson6 also said, perceiving is mostly remembering”, since we see only what we know how to see, and what we know how to discern. This “knowing how to see” depends directly on the information that is already stored in our memory. Our perceived reality reveals us the pattern system operating in our memory7.
Photographers are visually educated people. They have nothing to do with camera users, or users of mobile devices with image-capturing apps. Photographers are knowledgeable of the physics of light. That is how they got their name: photo = light. Photographers look for the best angles trying to convey with light the insights they want to get across, their desired intention according to the field of their photographic expertise, and they even pick the lenses that best frame the narrative that they –as authors- want to expound or communicate.

This is what I call The Rule Of Three P’s, which are: Perspective + Proportion yield Perception. This last one can still get distorted by the viewer’s interpretation, yielding a fractal interpretative result. Maybe this is where the phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words” comes from. Those thousand words represent said interpretations, which lead us to collective, cultural and personal semiotics.

This is how research on psychography got started some years ago before becoming multidisciplinary, so that its interpretation is not a projection of the interpreter, who at this point will be called “psychographer”.
“All knowledge operates through the selection of meaningful data and the rejection of data that are not meaningful. It divides (tells apart, disassembles), and brings together (associates, identifies); it organizes in a hierarchy (the main, the lesser), and centralizes (based on a nucleus of key notions). These operations, that resort to logics, are in fact commanded by ‘supralogic’ principles of though organization or paradigms; hidden principles that rule our vision of things and of the world, without our awareness”8.
“Science constitutes a knowledge of a special kind. It deals primarily, though not exclusively, with unobservable events unsuspected by the uneducated layman, such as the evolution of stars and the duplication of chromosomes. It invents and tries conjectures beyond common knowledge, such as the laws of quantum mechanics or those of conditioned reflexes; and it tests such assumptions with the help of special techniques…” Bunge9 (2004)

7 2002, “Influence Of Peripherical Stimulation On Visual Memory”. Madrid; Pilar Berrocal Mora. Gloria Hermida Salamanca. Directora: Pilar Plou Campo.

8 “Blind Intelligence”; Morin, Edgar


The transition of images from analogical to digital resulted not only in its democratization but was also the onset of a pandemic amidst an uneducated democracy, unaware of visual knowledge and its composition rules.

We can’t drift away from technology. We are part of the omnipresent technocracy of our time and the naturalization it grants to new generations. The intended “normalization” for a new reading of images looks nothing like the norms that social networks put in place. In the quest for a criteria to normalize the reading of images -far removed from the norms of art or photography-, psychography delves into reading every quadrant of the image, discerning the subconscious projections made on its blind spots by users of mobile devices with image-capturing apps. The less the user knows of the laws of light and image composition, the larger the projective subconscious information supplied and vice versa. Comprehensive knowledge acts as a filter of the mental map that psychography is set to read.

“No wonder it has been asserted that we are entering a historical epoch in which the image will take over from the written word. In view of this claim it is all the more important to clarify the potentialities of the image in communication…”10.


Findings of this research. The multidisciplines that make up the field of study named psychography yield local and communal information. Psychography discriminates identities in a world divided in East and West, with a lot more information on the latter, its birthplace. A number of moods accompanying psychological projections can be detected the moment an image is captured. Psychography also tells us about that which rules our subconscious behavior; mental structures learnt during early childhood, adolescence and even adulthood. It is important to remember that “one picture does not make psychography”12. Given the conclusions reached by psychography so far, the larger the number of images to be read, the larger the information drawn about the identity of the one who captures them. It is worth mentioning that images (regardless of their content or subject), do not necessarily reveal identity traits. There is a lot to be known and a lot to be done regarding both the way our research is outlined, and the way we propagate how this information is obtained.

10 “The Visual Image: Its Place In Communication”; Gombrich Ernst

12 Paraphrasing Aristotle in Nicomachean Ethics Summary and Analysis of Book One:

“One swallow doesn’t make a summer”, EN I 7, 1098a19-20.

One consequence of postmodern propositions in social sciences is the critique of the notion of subject as an entity with essential features accessible to scientific research, a task undertaken mainly by positivist psychology. The modern subject is deconstructed13

Conclusions of research. Neuroscience seems to explain many of the whys of mankind, and of our behavior as a species. The integration of technology is part of our history. We have adapted to the natural conditions of our surroundings. The consequences of those modifications, external and internal, continue to develop. We cannot put aside the “technocracy” that facilitates communication, and the consequences thereof, “we can no longer be blind to the invisible”. Reality is nothing but every individual’s perception of his surroundings, and how he or she adapts to them internally.

As a generation, we are a bridge between the tangible and the digitalized (intangible), between real and modified, between visible and not coded for the limited perception of the human eye (invisible?).

Technology -and particularly the digitalization of the tangible- opens a gap that cuts off all which cannot be digitalized. Values, thoughts, feelings, memories, behaviors… identities.

We live in a world swamped with images of all kinds. We live immersed in an uneducated democracy. No matter what our IQ is, we will all end up being users. Democratized digitalization cares only about ID. That is the identity that psychography examines, codifies and translates.

The human eye perceives things with a lag of 1/60th of a second, and stores them in a millisecond judging them according to personal perspective and in terms of their importance. Photography is static. Technology and the mobile devices it has created work to our advantage. In truth, we are blind people taking selfies in our surroundings. I am saying it this way because the capturing screens of mobile devices -due to their size and quality- don’t let you see the “reality” being sought for. Users experiment with their devices and claim, “this picture didn’t turn out the way I wanted”. Ignoring the working process of the device they declare, “this is not a good camera”.

What if images have been manipulated? That doesn’t matter. Psychography divides images into quadrants in order to discern mental maps. Mental maps have been detected thanks to various behavioral features of the aforementioned donors who handed down this information.

13 2003; The Anchoring Of Personal Identity”, Universidad Complutense de Madrid. Resumed by: Revilla Carlos.

It is of the utmost importance to mention that the conclusions of psychography are no recipes to be propagated virally on the web. Since the identified traits and features of personality are private, not only is it necessary to know the disciplines that make up psychography but also the ethics that shape the responsibility of the psychographer. (Norm of the norm).

Connection with local, national and international settings:

Technocracy ruling the world and the omnipresent digitalization have unified us as web surfers. In spite of all the differences keeping us apart –cultural, religious, political, sexual, geographical and more-, we are becoming virtually adapted to yielding readings of casual, petty images. Those are the ones that render more abundant information.

The problem of breaking anonymity by the agency of image is a problem of our time. It is local, communal, national and international. It brings you and I together because giving out our personal information to compulsory digitalization makes us vulnerable.

Images shared online are but a tool among many for making out identity through picture capture and broadcasting in social networks.




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