Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Hurricane Sandy photos: real or fake?

Fake Hurricane Sandy photos flooded Twitter, Facebook and other social networks last week. Having seen these amazing and exaggerating photos, without verifying if the photos were real or not, many people made comments like “oh, it’s really the global warming” and “finally, it comes the crack of doom.” Suddenly social media was filled with negative emotions and people were getting panic. After I saw some of these horrible photos, I immediately texted my friends in NY to see if they were ok. And to my surprise, they were totally calm and said things were not as that serious as I saw on news. Soon, there were people jumping out to question the realness of the photos. And following the clarifying photo hoaxes blogs and discussions in the SNSs. 
Images seem to be a lot more powerful and persuasive than words, since people tend to believe photos more because they think photos are presenting the truth. However, what people see is mediated. as DeLuca and Peeples say, "there is no real public, but, rather...the public is the product of publicity, of pictures." On the "public screen" of the Internet, people's habits of getting knowledge and information reflect choices of "images over words, emotions over rationality, speed over reflection, distraction over deliberation, slogans over arguments, the glance over the gaze, appearance over truth, the present over the past." And it's not limited to natural disasters. How about wars and protests? How about things happening in foreign countries, that our perception of the remote world may simply depends on a mediated photo.


  1. Yiyang, great way to link the Deluca & Peeples to a very recent event. In an age of digital manipulation, the seeming truth value of a photographic image can no longer be entirely trusted (there are quite a few famous examples of photo manipulation, e.g. the National Geographic pyramids cover, the O.J. Simpson mug shots, etc.).

  2. Yiyang, this was a wonderful reminder to me because I experienced this last week. When the hurricane first hit, I remember seeing the picture fifth from the bottom and being in awe of this powerful storm that had such power. When I saw from another source later and found the image wasn't real, I felt a little strange because I had invested my thoughts and energy towards a fake. I don't regret thinking about Hurricane Sandy at all, but it did (or didn't? hmm) surprise me how I assumed it to be accurate because it was a picture of a storm. It makes you think how much effort a person has to go through to fact check, how important it is, and how easy it is to just absorb everything. It's definitely not a good thing to do (just taking it in), but I guess that's why getting "snapshots" of news is so appealing - it helps to live "more efficient" lives. And the idea of attention being a scarce resource plays into this event, I think. That the news generally is right the majority of the time leads us to believe even that which isn't correct to be true, out of convenience. I wonder how/when/how often this has happened on a massive scale! We see it in advertisements, propaganda, the news, so many things. Thank you for the wonderful reminder!

  3. I think this is a great reminder that we have to take everything that we see through these mediums with a grain of salt. Not only are pictures easily altered, but the very nature of a picture is that it was taken through someone else's eyes, someone who through their own experiences have unique preconceived notions and beliefs that consciously or subconsciously affect the way that they view the world. And ultimately their world view may be manifested through the image that they choose to take. Technology may be making things seems easier and easier to do, but it continuously makes it harder and harder to trust.

    - Barbara Lin

  4. It's interesting to think that DeLuca and Peeples wrote this article before the advent of Photoshop. I wonder what they would think now if they saw these pictures and the reactions of people who see these images! It's also quite frightening to think about the profound, insidious influence that images can have on the masses, especially if they are displayed on the public screen. What happens if the government starts to utilize Photoshop as a propaganda tool? How are we to know what is reality and what is desired reality?