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October 23, 2013 - Image 12

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 2013-10-23

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.



U

-W

4B ds t 23 2013/The Statement

Wednesday, October 23,B2013/Ent 1

.AV...[E.AN...IORIES FIT TO
k ' y fi
, F ADE

As of June 2013, Snapchat has removed
the facial expression from Ghostface Chillah,
as a result of a lawsuit disputing the original
founders of the app. Snapchat, currently worth
a self-reported $800 million by its investors,
faces an ongoing legal battle between three
Stanford graduates: Reggie Brown, Bobby
Murphy and Evan Spiegel, according to Busi-
ness Insider. Brown claims that Murphy and
Spiegel unfairly expelled him from the com-
pany, and in doing so, snatched away his role
as co-founder of the app. Furthermore, Brown
asserts that the original Ghostface Chillah
design was developed by him.
With the latest iPhone iOS update, Snapchat
released the following statement on its blog on
June 6: "Many of you have noticed that in our
latest iOS update, v5.0 Banquo, our mascot no
longer has a facial expression," the blog noted,
"This isn't because we forgot the face - it's
because you are the face of Snapchat." The blog
post further observes that the faceless mascot
more accurately portrays the "diverse experi-
ences" of the entire Snapchat community.
Despite changes to its mascot, Snapchat
has continued to offer its users with one main
quality: transience. Many users took advan-
tage of Snapchat's ephemeral, disappearing
photos by capturing themselves at their sup-
posed "ugliest." Some users intentionally took
"unattractive" pictures of one another - or of
themselves - and traded them. Double chins,
pursed lips and crossed eyes were documented
and sent at no risk, since Snapchat images are
designed to disappear.
Snapchat essentially offers its users what
other social media sites could not - a way to
interact with impermanence; a low-risk, per-
sonal statement of sorts. School of Information
Associate Prof. Clifford Lampe observed that
. Snapchat might not even fall under the category
of traditional "social media" sites.
"With most social media, you have public
statements that go out to people," said Lampe,
who is on the Board of Publications that over-
sees the Michigan Daily, referencing Twitter,
Facebook and Instagram. "Snapchat is pretty
direct communication, typically one-on-one."
Lampe acknowledged the existing history of
criticism against most social media.
"We've had a narrative for quite a while now
of 'How can young people be saying all this stuff
on Facebook and Twitter? Don't they realize it's
there forever?' Well, someone said, 'Let's make
an app where it's not there forever,"' Lampe said.
Thus, Snapchat fills a void in the social
media sphere of information thatvanishes, and
still maintaips active communication between
two people.
Snapchat also marks the recent change
in social media to a more visual-enhanced
culture. Communication Studies Prof. Scott
Campbell notes that the history of new media
was initially text-based.
"Now," he said, "the visual component is
becoming as important - or almost as impor-
tant - as textual-based communication."
Image-based communication has seemingly
heightened with the Millennials, a generation
comprised of people born 1980 to 2000. When
I log onto Facebook, my newsfeed blares with
photos ofcider mill donuts, kissy-face emoticons
and profile picture updates. On Instagram, a

friend poses, arms poised delicately, pretending
to hoist a patch of bulky pumpkins. And scroll-
ing down Tumblr, snapshots from the "Break-
ing Bad" finale clutter my screen. These days,
it's hard not to find a communication outlet that
lacks images. After all, we are primarily visual
creatures. We like to see.
Engineering junior Raj Vir, a hacker and web
designer, believes technology's high-quality.
cameras make Snapchat's visual qualities all the
more appealing.
"You can convey a lot in texts, but obviously
you can convey way more in pictures," he said,
"Like the old saying goes, 'A picture is worth a
thousand words,' and now phones with high-
quality cameras allow good communication."
And yet, the rise of images has not dimin-
ished other ways we talk to one another,
according to Campbell.
"I'd consider (the visual) as an added layer
of communication ... it's not taking away from
other forms of communication," he said, "This
visual component is communication."
In 2009, Campbell, one of the contribut-

build our relationship."
Snapchat can thus be used to reaffirm and
upkeep social relationships - a way to virtually
tap on the shoulder or hug.
"What's really important and good about
(Snapchat) when it launched was that it wasn't
necessarily about the app itself,"Vir said, "It was
the network of friends you had on the app. You
talked to, at most, 10 friends. Every Snap you got
was hand-picked for you."
Campbell agrees.
"When you reach out to somebody with a
Snapchat, that's a symbolic gesture," he said.
"That's an affirmation that you're thinking of
somebody, and they're in your social circle."
It seems the app has taken on a different pur-
pose other than swapping selfies. Snapchat has
been used to document experiences and share
rather mundane moments. Snapchats aren't
onlylimitedto portraits of people.I'vebeen sent
Snaps of beach-water. A nice burger from Sava's.
Cats. More cats. Slabs of fudge, with the caption
"boss gives me fudge at work loL." Lately, Snap-
chat seems like a way for users to record experi-

"When you reach out to somebody with
a Snapchat, that's a symbolic gesture.
That's an affirmation that
you're thinking of somebody,
and they're in your social circle."
- Communication Studies
Prof. Scott Campbell

However, Vir acknowledges that Snapchat
itself is not an app that demands a lot of screen-
shot preservation: "They're pretty low-quality,
random pictures."
The very nature of Snapchat photos then,
is meant to deteriorate. But is Snapchat usage
meant to last in the long run? It's hard to pre-
dict. As of Oct. 3, Snapchat launched a new
feature titled Snapchat Stories, which allows
users to create a 24-hour Snap narrative by
combining together various Snaps that last on
a 24-hour cycle.
Vir believes Snapchat Stories disturbs the
simplicity of the app.
"Snapchat is ridiculously simple (as opposed
to picture messaging). You just open it up, and
the camera is right there," he said,"'Stories' adds
alot of distractions to the app. It's less personal.
I disagree with it."
And yet another element could get in the
way of Snapchat's legacy: mom and dad. Camp-
bell notices a consistent trend that'll determine
whether or not various communication platforms
ultimately survive among the young generation.
"There's a little bit of a cat-and-mouse
game going on. Young people are hopping
onto some of the new channels of new media,"
he said, "Once the grown-ups get on and pay
attention to what they're doing, it loses a bit
of its cultural capital for young people. It
loses some of its coolness, and they move onto
other new things that older generations will
eventually hop onto."
Take Facebook, for example. After Facebook
caught onto the older generation of parents,
grandparents, bosses and teachers, the Millen-
nials began "reducing their Facebook activity
in leaps and bounds," Lampe said. "One thing
young people like to do is maintain the boundar-
ies against old people."
Which isn't necessarily a bad thing. After all,
we're generationally different from one another,
as well as positioned at different psychological
stages of development.
"The biggest psychological consequence
(Snapchat has) is that it does help a younger
generation, especially a college-age generation,
to establish their own identities and differenti-
ate themselves from one another," Lampe said,
"Part of establishing identity is thinking: What
does it mean to construct myself? How do I con-
struct my identity around social circles? What
audience am I presenting myself to?"
Whereas previous generations illuminated
their identities through more visceral avenues
of clothing, or music choice, Millennials have
another mode of expression: online imaging-
mediums such as Snapchat.
"It's all about how you use these tools,"
Lampe said, "If I communicate positive mes-
sages and wish you a good day, that might
make us both happy. But if I just communicate
anger or sarcasm, that might be detrimental to
our happiness."
As Snapchat is relatively new, it may be too
early to tell. There is currently no established
scientific research on the app, although both
Campbell and Lampe predict studies to come
in the near future.
In the meantime, walking through the Diag,
I spot numerous others raising phones to their
faces; to the squirrels; to the wet, reddening
leaves; caught in a continuous Snapping frenzy. 4

ing authors to a "Teens and Mobile Phones,"
revealed that two main modes of cell phone
usage in teens are text messaging and sending
photos to one another.
"We correlated (cell phone usage) with peer-
to-peer interaction, and there was a positive cor-
relation," Campbell said.
So, even when young people are not together,
they're not necessarily replacing their face-to-
face interactions with digital ones. They're, as
Campbell puts it, "filling in the gaps."
In 2013, an app like Snapchat - that has the
ability to both capture and dissolve the visual -
seems to fulfill a desired need.
"I think we've always wanted to appreci-
ate and share moments in ways that are not
archived," Campbell said. "People are not inter-
ested in archiving everything permanently.
The archiving of our experiences online could
become overwhelming to some."
Not only overwhelming, but meaningless. On
my Facebook newsfeed alone, it seems pointless
to upload the eight iPhone photos I took of my
diner breakfast from various angles, with dif-
ferent color effects. Rather, Snapchat is a way
of privatizing communication, and accessing
control. Furthermore, it helps "socially groom"
relationships, accordingto Lampe.
"Snapchat helps younger people keep con-
trol of a message," he said, "When I Snapchat
to somebody, it's me signaling I'm spending
my limited attention on them, which helps

ences rather than selfie-shots.
"I think it might just be the case of people
using Snapchat more often," Vir said, "Previ-
ously, you might've just used it to send pictures
of your face, and now it's just moments."
These shared moments - documented
through Snaps that disappear - mimic the true
nature of ephemeral time.
"The idea of ephemeral conversations that
go away and disappear fulfill a deep need for
people," Lampe said, referencing the "Right
To Be Forgotten" movement in Europe, where
Internet users of sites like Facebook and Google
campaign for the basic right to not have perma-
nently-stored information preserved online.
The basic need for information to disap-
pear - to be forgotten - is increasingly advo-
cated as a necessity. So in regards to the future,
Lampe believes the ephemeral "feature is
going to be important."
And while users seem to embrace the tran-
sient nature of Snapchat, it's easy enough to take
a screenshot of a Snap, saving it forever into one's
camera roll. Traditionally, Snapchat friends are
notified if a screenshot of their image is taken.
However, Vir figured out a way to combat the
problem earlier this year through a hack that
would eventually earn him fame in the web
world. Vir discovered that one could save a Snap-
chat screenshot withoutiletting the user get noti-
fied. Simple: a user double-taps the home button
on their smartphone after taking a screenshot.

Frum the passenger's seat, I can see
everything: grass, McDonald's, speed
signs we're ignoring, food advertise-
ments we're not, the slender arc of the
interstate, hung like a gray-swept sheet before
us. "Road trip!" my sister hollers from the driv-
er's seat, her palm grazing the wheel. "Hey, we
should Snap somebody."
Reaching for my iPhone, I scroll until I
reach my most used app. The signature ghost
mascot beams up at me, its tongue poking
out of its mouth as if to suggest we're both

the insiders to some hideous secret joke. I
tap. My iPhone camera pops out, and - in
true selfie-mode - I pucker up in front of the
camera, duck-facing it, and press the button.
The October light splashes across the camera
lens, obscuring my face with shafts of glitter.
Typing in a quick caption, I caps-lock, "FALL
BREAK! ON OUR WAYYY" and check the
green boxes of all my Snapchat friends, send-
ing to as many people as I can.
My sister and I are currently two out of the
estimated 8-million registered Snapchat users,

who are cumulatively trading approximately
350-million images daily. The free image-mes-
saging phone application designed by two Stan-
ford University students in 2011 is a hit among
smartphone users. It allows users to send photos
and videos to each other that disappear after a
chosen period of time - users can set the image
for anywhere between one to ten seconds. Users
can additionally create captions and use a draw-
ing tool to embellish photos with hand-drawn
accents. Snapchat users thus communicate with
one another by giving and receiving "Snaps" -

By Carlina Duan
images or videos which both capture and illu-
minate the embarrassing, the ordinary and the
"selfie" of every day.
With the intent to allow users to "have fun"
written into its Terms of Usage, Snapchat was
welcomed into the social media sphere as an
amusing, even humorous app used to take
funny shots of yourself, or of friends. Even
its famous ghost mascot, named "Ghostface
Chillah," after the Ghostface Killah of the
Wu-Tang Clang, suggestively implies a light-
hearted, easygoing tone.

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