Project Hyperessay #2: Self(ie) Obsessed


Reflecting back on my proposed concept for the final project, I realised I had created a faceswop in a selfie without realising it about a month ago in the video selfie. Of course, this didn’t have any technical aspects to it, just involved a mirror and some dolls. However, I guess the main idea of people hiding behind a virtual entity and are constantly trying to reinvent ourselves and how other people see us still stands the same; with fancy software or not. A global phenomenon of the modern era, the selfie has become known as the ultimate form of self-expression.

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Click here to (re)watch my video selfie from about a month ago

Rarely a documentary genre, self-portraits have always allowed us to craft an argument about who we are, convincing not only others, but also ourselves.

-Casey Sepp, PSmag: In praise of Selfies

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As a result researching more about selfies and how people can make and pass judgements about us based on the kind of photograph of ourselves we choose to publish into social media, I found Are You Your Selfie?created by Ballantine’s Whiskey. This selfie-centered website provides a viewer participatory experience asks curious netizens to upload your own selfies, with anonymous others then give your honest impression by answering a number of light-hearted, set questions of a strangers’ profile pictures.

As soon as others begin leaving their opinions, the person whose image has been uploaded is notified and will be able to view the most common “impressions” their image has left, ultimately seeing whether the way that others perceive them is in line with the way they see themselves. Users are then given the further option to share one or more of those “impressions” via a visual representation generated by the site on Facebook or Twitter, encouraging their friends to also take part in this unique social experiment.

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Peter Moore, Global Brand Director for Ballantine’s, commented: “Given the current trend for selfies amongst the millennial generation, we hope that this exciting initiative will stimulate conversation amongst Ballantine’s fans online and provoke them to think about whether they are presenting a true reflection of themselves when they share photos online. 

What I learnt from this is that my project could take the form of a website where users input in their own photos to be shared with other users. Although the website works using a simple clicking mechanism, it is effective in bringing out the intended message. At the end of the day, the website could be like a database of user-generated content centering selfies and faceswops.

Looking more into how I can use the web to create somewhat of an “online exhibition”, Juan had left me with a comment on my Project Hyperessay post #1 with an example; #futureself by Orange Mobile. This website is rather interesting but yet creepy at the same time. Future Self takes a picture of your face, “ages” you by 20 years and then lets you chat with your 2034 self..

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“We took photos of our subjects and used software to create digital avatars — half of which were aged with jowls, bags under the eyes, and gray hair. Wearing goggles and sensors, participants explored a virtual environment and came to a mirror that reflected either their current-self or future-self avatar.”
– Hal E. Hershfield, Marketing Professor

Other than a website, a smartphone app can also be used as seen on the FaceStealer App on the iPhone demonstrated in the video below:

Yahoo Japan released Face Stealer, which is an amusing app that uses augmented reality to replace your face with someone else’s. The app comes with a collection of pre-loaded faces for you to immediately swap in—from Obama to Einstein—but you can also choose to snap anyone’s photo and replace your face with theirs. The app works with any iOS device with a front-facing camera.

Referencing from all the above case studies, I realised that the project could reside entirely online. Although a physical space to conduct this project is not necessary; but would be good if there is one. Probably in the form of screens showing passers-by the content on the site and filming their reactions as they look through these images. In that way, we would be getting different results from different people by capturing their different reactions, we could do so through different mediums and can be used to address and relate to the issue of active and passive identities:

Dr Aaron Balick, a psychotherapist who has written a book about the human motivations behind social networking, explains that we have both “active online identities” and “passive online identities“. “A passive one is like when you search for yourself, or when friends post information about you – it’s your online identity that you have no control over,” he explains. “Active online identities are ones you can control, like a Facebook profile. “A selfie is an expression of an active online identity, something you have some control over. You might take lots, but you’ll publish the ones you like – even if they are silly or unflattering.”

Execution wise, my lack of knowledge and experience about coding apps or creating websites to do this would limit me. However, I came across a site for the codes for these faceswap technologies in an open-source databases. All in all, i like where my research is bringing my concepts and ideas; expanding my understanding of these terms and broadening my horizons on these topics. 🙂

In summary, I have identified the stages of user interaction in my Swopfie as such:
1 – User takes a selfie/uploads one of someone else
2 – User obtains a manipulated, faceswopped selfie
3 – Said user is able to share swopfie with twitter, facebook etc
4 – Said user is able to tag him/herself/friends
5 – Said user is able view the dashboard of swopfies/search for friends or specific tags

The above 5-step process takes users active online identities and quickly takes away their control over the images/sides of themselves they choose to reveal on the net. In addition, by allowing people to tag their friends or create hashtags for posts, we are able to aggregate trends in the face swapping process. It certainly would be very interesting if there are users from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds participating. Aside from that, using tags will make it easier for users to find their way around the site, building up the number of page views and building up traffic.

If the blog were to go live and be projected onto a big screen at the adm lobby, it would be updated and passers-by would be able to experience and view the swopfies in realtime. These passers-by actions and reactions will also be documented in a video as this concept is similar to what we’re used to on the net; other users view and react to your photos and online profiles (some without even leaving a trace and you would have no idea that they were there in the first place). By documenting this installation on video, we’re able to expose the passive online identities: one these passers-by have no control over as they were documented then an there with no filter or anonymity to hide behind.

I believe that there’s so much we can learn from this activity of swopfies and sharing about social relationships, events, social upheaval, and other patterns of human behavior.

Project Hyperessay #1: Amazing and Freaking out the Internet



Out of all the micro-projects that we have worked and embarked on so far, I felt that the Collective Body was the most amusing and interesting. It made me chuckle and I like how in this body of work, we are able to make small contributions to form a larger picture as a whole. The collective artworks creates an alternate form of narrative; open to the audiences’ interpretations. Although the idea of tweaking photographs to create a new image is not new, it never ceases to create reactions and amuse or even frighten the audience. The reactions an artist hopes to get can be planned… however, there is no guarantee how the audience might react to the work.

I thought about John’s use of the camera app on one of our Adobe Connect Sessions and recently,
I downloaded an app on my smartphone called FaceSwop. An example of a FaceSwop:


I find this idea somewhat similar to the Collective Body and has the potential to explore some of the topics I hoped to bring out in my Video Selfie: which was to show how we hide behind our computer screens, or rather, avatars as a form of disguise or masquerade. We reconstruct ourselves and choose which fragments of our personalities to showcase on the Internet. Therefore, I did more research on FaceSwaps and found the CLMTrackr by Audun Øygard:


CLMtrackr is an open-source JavaScript project that lets you “try on” faces of celebrities and other notable figures. To accurately capture your facial movements, the virtual model plots 70 reference points on your face and uses them to add effects to the masks in real time.”
-Audun Øygard, CLMtrackr, Artists’ Statement


Building on face-tracking algorithms from a group of researchers at Carnegie Mellon’s Robotics Institute, Øygard’s self-built Javascript library follows 70 points on your face in real time. Tilt your head, wiggle your eyebrows, or stick out your tongue, and the virtual visage remains stretched over yours all the while. The concept is novel and participation is simple. Simply go to the website. Allow them access to your webcam and you’re all ready to go. To some, turning on their webcams would mean they’d need to get ready and actually be prepared for a photo. For the ladies, some dabbing of lipstick and for men maybe more wax on the hair… (p.s You don’t even have to look super presentable for this; after all, it isnt your face per se!)

Here’s my stab on the CLMtrackr! Can you guess who’s “masks” are on my face…
(Apparently the first is Justin Bieber and second is George Clooney?!?!?!?)

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The presentation is slightly rough though as the system is flawed and sometimes is not able to accurately detect your face. (at one point they had the mask on the blue painting behind me, but I couldn’t catch that moment and capture a screenshot on time [glitch?] ):

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Øygard explains, “Face substitution is one of the things which probably will get much better over time and we’ll see it pop up more places.” With a very prospective future ahead, the development of digital technology is looking to be encompass more interactive and user-friendly improvements.

Øygard made his software citing Faces as his reference. Faces is an interactive installation by Arturo Castro and Kyle McDonald, extending work on face substitution. The piece resembles a mirror where people get their face swapped.. It takes advantage of the unique experience of slowly recognizing yourself as someone else.

He published the above video to do some kind of research; to see what people reactions are. Vimeo commenters are already chiming in about possible uses. “Would be useful for chatroulette,” replied Vormplus. The software provides an uncanny experience of being someone else elicits peoples responses; laughter, surprise, repulsion.

The installation is based on the idea of wishing for a new identity: when the subject first steps up, they see their face unmodified. After closing their eyes to make a wish and opening them again, they discover they are wearing a new face. The result is a mixture of a playful, surprising and some times scary experience.” – Arturo Castro, Artists’ Statement


Castro then created an exhibition following the exhibition. Knowing that it takes approximately one second for someone to respond to a completely unexpected event, he stored a photograph at 1.5 seconds after the swap – capturing that moment of realization. So far, the reactions aren’t what Castro expected. “I was expecting creepy and fun/hilarious,” he says. “But I was a little surprised by the people who say ‘Oh, the future is scary.'”

I find it interesting how the artists’ opinions often varies with that of the audience in works like these. One can not expect a clear and definite answer to what the audience’s reactions and opinions might be. Therefore, perhaps we could an open online database in the form of a website that publishes the captured pictures and uploads it in real time to the internet. This is accompanying an interactive setup with the cameras and screens possibly at the ADM lobby. The setup could be somewhat like Nicholas Maigret’s Pirate Cinema. In this way, we could create an installation that interactive, participatory, and multimedia-based; using our social interactions.

On the proposed site, we could provide a “shared record” of all the real-time faceswops. It is a “collective blog” that is updated and constantly changing. Additionally, the implementation of twitter feeds and an opinion section allow the public to engage with the website and make their interactions with the website and its content, and their opinions public knowledge. The website promotes the event/installation and allows the viewer to learn more. There could also be “share to twitter”, “share to facebook” and “share to flickr” widget buttons so that audience can share the experience with their friends, family and acquaintances who might not be physically present in ADM to experience it. Using and supporting open source software and garnering more attention to its availability can also help drive greater awareness on how the open innovation model and open source technology can help drive innovation and pave way for great ideas.

Aside from the option of sharing photos/videos from the website to social media, we could also implement comment boxes on each photo/video that helps promote conversations. Some people can pen down what they think, ask questions and others can possibly respond and give answers. It speaks to the dynamics and evolving nature of the website’s subject. In this way, we can take full advantage of interactive interface and connectivity to multiple social cultures and micro-cultures. After all, Net.artists have built digital art communities through an active practice of web hosting and web art curating. Constantly finding new ways to share public space.

We could also explore beyond using faces of celebrities. We could take pictures of peers, faculty and even administrative assistants as masks. (This would of course require prior permissions to use their photo/faces – Much like Eva and Franco Mattes Life-Sharing – but Face-Sharing HAHA) People can take a stab at guessing who’s face was merged with who’s or with who’s body.. or one might even want to tag themselves in the post and receive realtime updates if people like or leave comments on the photo to promote more interaction. Having a “Most Viewed/Commented” on the website column also is a wonderful interactive element. The viewer can learn about what swaps others on the site enjoy and it personalises the experience for everyone.

And as cameras and videogame systems become even further intertwined, you could imagine how this sort of technology could be applied. We could even have interactive face-swop video greetings like this at the adm lobby:

SOME TECHNICAL ASPECTS: Developed using openFrameworks and the Facetracker library through Kyle McDonald’s ofxFaceTracker addon for OF All the code is open source and can be found in this github repository.