You are not very good at taking selfies. Don’t take that the wrong way, dear reader. You are a very appealing person. In fact, the Versions masthead had a meeting and decided we’d go for your picture on an online dating site if you were also interested. But you’re still not very good at taking selfies.
And that’s fine, because everybody—save, of course, for Queen Kim Kardashian—is bad at taking selfies. Your only mistake is being human, and that isn’t really something to be fixed.
Just don’t tell that to some of the bright minds at Princeton, who appear to have solved the wretched human problem with the help of technology and some bits of intuition that needn’t be explained here.
The basic problem is that the way you hold a camera, after many contortions, is not really the optimal angle for taking a picture of your beautiful face. Intrepid folks have previously tried to solve this problem with an invention known as a selfie stick—the less said about those devices, the better off we’ll all be. Ohad Fried, Eli Shechtman, Dan B Goldman, and Adam Finkelstein, however, propose to solve this problem by adjusting the perspective of selfies on the computer. “Our approach,” they write “fits a full perspective camera and a parametric 3D head model to the portrait, and then builds a 2D warp in the image plane to approximate the effect of a desired change in 3D.” Basically, you tell their website where your ears and the top of your head are located and then pull some dials until everything looks good.
each additional layer of intermediation moves us further away from objective reality
This is basically a reaction to the old expression about the camera adding 10 pounds. Turn a few dials and it doesn’t. Turn a few more dials and your face will look like an extraterrestrial extra in a cheap made-for-TV movie, but let’s not go there. The point is that instead of taking the perfect picture, the Princeton site lets you take a good enough picture and then work out the details later.
The use of technology to fix selfies raises an interesting question about portrayals of the self and reality. One might reasonably argue that a perspective-fixed version of your selfies is a more “real” depiction of your likeness than the original. This seems to run contrary to the idea that each additional layer of intermediation moves us further away from objective reality. Or we could just concede that objective reality doesn’t really exist and enjoy the new perspective. Let’s go with that latter option.