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The Social Photo: On Photography and Social Media

3.57  ·  Rating details ·  88 ratings  ·  17 reviews
A set of bold theoretical reflections on how the social photo has remade our world.

With the rise of the smart phone and social media, cameras have become ubiquitous, infiltrating nearly every aspect of social life. The glowing camera screen is the lens through which many of seek to communicate our experience. But our thinking about photography has been slow to catch-up;
Kindle Edition, 176 pages
Published April 30th 2019 by Verso
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Jan 02, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2020
In the The Social Photograph: On Photography and Social Media, Nathan Jurgenson aims to offer fresh ways to think about photography shared on social apps such as Instagram and Facebook. Incredibly ambitious in scope, the project addresses everything from the popularity of the selfie to the history of vintage filters. The work takes on an abundance of loosely related topics; it offers occasional insights into the diverse ends of photography made for social media, but it lacks a clear thesis tying ...more
Andrew Howdle
May 29, 2019 rated it it was ok
An interesting book, but one that is wise and stupid in equal degrees. It is a book that keeps the mind arguing-- though Jurgenson's argument is frequently frustrating.

Towards the centre of the book, he acknowledges that smartphones are "dangerous" in the desires that they create, yet mitigates this by saying people might have a "minor personal obsession." I would not use the word "minor" for the addiction that influences many of my younger friends. Around a few warnings, he constructs a thesis
Jul 25, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This started guns-a-blazing, with an interesting hypothesis on the idea of social photography, and the writing was relatively taut and the voice fresh. This part I enjoyed - very much.

But then, glut set in. This book is structured as two long-form "essays" on documentary vision and "real life" with a coda on "the social video" (which was so slight it arguably isn't worth reading so much as it functions as Jurgenson's nod to other forms of social media). Yet apart from their bifurcated
Nicolas Lozito
Jan 20, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2020
Venduto come un ‘Susan Sontag della selfie generation’, Jurgenson spiega questo: le immagini che condividiamo sui social abbiano più a che fare con la comunicazione che con la documentazione. Le foto online non sono più ‘miniature di realtà’, quindi, ma pezzetti del nostro continuo dialogare.

Ecco perché è concettualmente sbagliato criticare la ripetitività di certe foto (il tramonto, i piatti gourmet, ecc.) e usare canoni artistici della fotografia classica per valutarla. Il senso non è
Aug 07, 2019 rated it it was ok
As with 'How to Do Nothing,' this is a fascinating topic that I'm super interested in, but it seemed expanded from previous tweets/talks/articles and as a result had some filler. That wasn't my main gripe with it, though: it was really, really academic for a book that's, in theory, for a more general audience, and had really snobby, superfluous language and constant namedropping of people like Susan Sontag and Theodor Adorno without initially explaining what their ideas were. I felt like I was ...more
Jul 10, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2019
The Social Photo - On Photography and Social Media (VERSO, 2019). One of those books I just added to the shopping cart while browsing, thinking ‘now, this could be interesting’. Well, it wasn’t. I don’t even know what exactly the point was of this book. I guess, in summary, the argument is a bit like that as was the case with the invention of photography in the 19th century, 21st century social media and the ‘social photo’ (selfies, food pics on Instagram, you all do it and know it!) is again ...more
Emily Carlin
Really disappointing, surprisingly.

Jurgenson is a really influential thinker, for me: from his essays for TNI and Cyborgology, to the Theorizing the Web conference he founded, to his online presence in general.

So - I was excited when I saw that he was writing a book. I expected it to be a deeper exploration of points he's made elsewhere as well as reflections on what has changed in the years since he first made them. It was ... not that.

Maybe The Social Photo is meant to be a repackaging of
This book works well as a fascinating exploration of photography/media theory/history as it relates to social media, but falls short of having a strong argument of its own. It's rather repetitive, and Jurgenson skims over a lot of ideas and issues that truly deserve a deeper dive or a more nuanced take (e.g. big data ethics). His position toward social photography ultimately comes across as quite ambivalent, and insistent on the one thesis: that photos posted to social media have a communicative ...more
Aug 07, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The author builds on the work of a number of theorists to argue that digital austerity discourse is unwarranted. Using Benjamin, he argues that the selfie is “not anchored to true-or-false but conveys timeless emotion and wisdom.” Next Bauman’s insight on the increasingly liquid world in which we live is used to defend the ceaseless need to document every experience. Briet is introduced to make the case that “ it is better to record the world than to let it disappear.” Beyond simply certificates ...more
Jun 05, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
A disappointment. If you're looking for writing on photography with the nuance and complexity of Sontag, Barthes, or Berger this is not the book for you. Re-read one of their books instead.

There are some thoughtful insights in this book. Sadly the author has a propensity to repeat them paragraph after paragraph with little development, leaving the reader feeling stranded when the subject changes with little resolution. Many times I found myself thinking this book started as a shorter essay that
Jul 09, 2019 marked it as attempted  ·  review of another edition
Nothing seems to be sticking for me at the moment. I'd wanted to read this for a while, but it just isn't going into my brain at all, and I don't know whether that's me (I'm pretty overloaded and stressed out with work, so perhaps need something simpler) or the book (I don't find the way it's written engaging; I prefer writing on topics like this to refer to particular examples and cultural moments). The statements, early in the book, that 'the generalising in this volume is intentional' and ...more
Jun 25, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The first half of the book is a fascinating journey into how to redefine and reconsider photography when it functions in a purely social way. The latter half of the book, though gets bogged down with a too pedantic - and often circular - argument about the moral panic around "digital detox" and the need to consider online identity and imagery (eg. the selfie) not as superficial, but as intrinsically blended with "the real."
Jessica Summers
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 13, 2019 marked it as to-read
LA Times, August 11, 2019
May 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Read this.

Clever social insights and provocations.

This short book lacks both techno-cynicism and techno-utopian fantasies. Filled with little aphoristic paradigm-shifting treasures.

The writing style is tweet thread-speak.
Jan 05, 2020 rated it liked it
often times raises more questions than answers; serves mostly as a refresher on more famous theorists and an attempt to apply their theories of photography and documentation onto a study of social media and the 'social photograph.' the writing is straightforward and easy to follow, and i think the book ultimately serves to open up paths for further and more complex research and theorizing in the study of social media. i found the parts on social media and photographs as means of endless ...more
Jun 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
Close to giving this the full 5, fascinating throughout and has made me rethink some of my beliefs about social media. Don't agree with everything Jurgenson states, but it's all eloquently argued.
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