Ethical and Unethical Implication of Digital Manipulation

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Jullie Seder
Final Research Paper

What is ethical and unethical regarding digital manipulation of media content that society is exposed to in modern days? There are many theories and beliefs regarding ethics of digital manipulation. Many people are under the impression that digital manipulation began with the invention of Photoshop like imaging software. The truth is that digital manipulation can be dated back to the invention of photography. The argument that digital manipulation is unethical can be supported in many ways. From photo-touching of a models waistline, to changing the color spectrum in outer-space photos, we are constantly bombarded with a re-touched perception of reality. With constant manipulation of images that the public sees today, how can anyone be sure what they are seeing is accurate? Since the 1980s new techniques have been introduced that simply did not exist before then. With the use of off the shelf programs like Adobe Photoshop a user can quickly clone part of a picture to extend the borders, resize and stretch the image horizontally or vertically and moving objects within the photograph is extremely easy. “There are no hard and fast rules as to how much manipulation is permitted before truth of the photographic statement has been compromised by fine tuning of contrast, color balance, minor burning, and or/ dodging, but he major overhauls of cloning or subject rearrangement are unacceptable.” (Rohde, 1995)

Photography has been evolving since ancient times, dating back to the early 1500s. The first image capturing devices were known as the camera Obscura, and the camera Lucida. These devices were no match compared to the quality of cameras we see today. It wasn’t until the late 1800s when chemistry, technology, and mechanics were finely tuned into creating a device that would capture an image and permanently imprint it. “Historically, photomontages and/or extensive retouching of images were often blatant, time consuming and required much artistic ability to be successful. The advent of digital imaging (DI) now permits digital manipulation (DM) to be done quickly and often undetected, unless it is contradictory to outside frames of reference.” (Rohde, 1995) With advancement in modern technology, photography has transformed from dark rooms to computer labs. Most high tech cameras do not use film but instead memory cards which are capable of storing thousands of images without the need to develop them. With the evolution of technology, the internet and photography combined it has become extremely easy to manipulate photos and videos. With the Internet literally millions of computers are linked together throughout the world. Through this massive network of computers users can surf through a world of virtual reality with endless amounts of information data and media. With endless amounts of media on the internet it is impossible to tell just what has been manipulated and what hasn’t been. Digital media wasn’t always as easy as a click Photography was invented to capture objects and people in their natural form as a permanent image, manipulating these images distorts our perception of reality. “When photography was first invented, its overwhelming power came from the fact that it recorded nature more realistically than any other art form had ever done before. Because of this, people trusted it and believed it portrayed, “reality” and truth”. (Lodriguss, 2006)

There are many forms of digital manipulation and the reasons for thus manipulation becomes controversial too many. Almost every single model in magazines in modern days is subject to photographic manipulation ---“Two notable real world examples of manipulating photos came about because a horizontal photo was chosen to fit into a vertical format. When National Geographic moved the pyramids of Giza closer together, it was to fit a vertical cover. Similarly, the photo documentary book, A Day in the Life of America,...
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