Dear readers of ULTRAsomething,
Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Saga, and I’m a Behavioural Scientist. For the past fifteen years, I’ve been Principal Investigator for a joint Swedish/Canadian study on the genesis of internet influence and its impact on modern society.
Specifically, my colleagues from Stockholm and Vancouver have analyzed and catalogued which personality traits and persuasion tactics result in the greatest social influence, and the extent to which a single individual can guide the thoughts, beliefs, mores and behaviour of an entire community. A significant portion of this study involved designing and developing numerous websites, each “hosted” by a carefully crafted yet totally artificial personality.
It feels strange to be introducing myself to you when, in fact, I’ve been the one writing this site for the past decade. I feel as if I know all of you so well, even if you don’t know me. ULTRAsomething, as you’ve probably now surmised, was one of several hundred sites painstakingly designed to isolate and thus experiment with numerous artificial personas and communication techniques.
In particular, it was one of two blogs designed around the topic of photography. Our goal was to see what type of individual could exert the most significant influence on the world’s photographic vocabulary. Site A (ULTRAsomething) was built around a manufactured personality who believed photography was about the image. Site B (name withheld) introduced a personality whose character believed photography was about the camera. In order to prevent each site’s photographs from exerting any actual influence on public opinion, we decided that both should feature the worst photos possible — that way we could measure the influential impact of the method, and not of the photos themselves.
For ULTRAsomething we chose to create blurry, low fidelity, black and white photos of random nothingness. Since no one on the staff could take photos bad enough to satisfy the dictate, we rescued an adorable Chihuahua/Irish Wolfhound mix from the local pound, strapped a camera to its chest and rigged it to fire off a shot every time the animal stopped to scratch. For Site B, we opted to concentrate on cat photos and HDR. Initially, the cat photos were taken by the daughter of an associate. But when she reached the age of six, she began to develop a sense of visual taste, so duties were transferred to my own two year-old niece. The HDR photos were all taken by my ex-husband, and were the result of a well-orchestrated “false-like” campaign, in which I and other researchers continuously liked, praised, and thus encouraged him to over-sharpen, over-saturate, and over-compress his images to the point of utter ridiculousness.
As anyone with an internet connection has surely seen, Site B’s “photography is about the camera” approach was extremely effective at establishing influence, and is now the primary reason why cat photos and HDR remain the two most commonly praised genres of “fine art” photos on the net. ULTRAsomething’s “photography is about the image” message failed to exert any influence whatsoever, and its grainy little blobs of murkiness are universally despised by the feline favouring patricians of the new camera-centric photographic empire.
With the study now complete, Roscoe (our Chihuahua/Irish Wolfhound mix) has semi-retired from photography, and enjoys life as my faithful and fun-loving companion. He keeps me company since I divorced my husband, who had sadly transformed into an insufferably arrogant bore after believing the robot-generated adulation heaped upon his most retina-tearing photos.
In spite of its lack of influence and miniscule readership, I’ll admit to developing a soft-spot for the ULTRAsomething piece of our experiment. Each month, I found myself looking forward to curating Roscoe’s random snaps, and to moderating the witty comments sent in by readers. While every other site in our study attracted an abundance of negativity, bullying and ignorance, ULTRAsomething’s readers always remained respectful, clever, funny and intelligent.
So I’ve decided to continue publishing ULTRAsomething, even though the study is over and the subterfuge revealed. While divulging the truth may convince some of you to unsubscribe, the behavioural scientist in me knows most of you will continue to believe the ULTRAsomething myth — that it’s written by a middle-aged Canadian guy who’s doomed to a life of serial existential crises, and who wanders around taking photos of metaphors so as to avoid facing any of these crises directly.
If my studies have taught me nothing else, it’s that the internet affords each of us complete control of our own public image. Society believes who we say we are, rather than who we really are. And the fact I’m a Swedish woman with a flea-scratching, camera-toting dog will probably not deter you from believing the lie I’ve propagated this past decade. Which is good for me, and for the future of my new hobby.
So you’ll probably see me next month, pretending once again to be that Egor character. I may, however, need to visit the pound and adopt a new camera dog. After eleven years, I still haven’t figured out how to take pictures as bad as old Roscoe’s.
Verkligheten är inte verklig.
Med vänliga hälsningar,
©2019 grEGORy simpson
ABOUT THE PHOTOS:
Old dog; new camera. These pictures were, as always, curated from a collection of photos shot by Roscoe on various walks these past few weeks. The only difference is that I fastened a new Ricoh GRIII on Roscoe’s camera harness. It’s lighter and smaller than most of the cameras Roscoe hauls around — a fact he appreciates in his waning years.
REMINDER: If you find these photos enjoyable or the articles beneficial, please consider making a DONATION to this site’s continuing evolution. As you’ve likely realized, ULTRAsomething is not an aggregator site — serious time and effort go into developing the original content contained within these virtual walls.