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Arien Mack Editor’s Introduction HOW COULD WE NOT DECIDE TO PUT TOGETHER AN ISSU E OF Social Research on “The Image,” living as we do in the twenty-first century, in which the world we inhabit is increasingly one of images? Our iPads and iPhones, and websites like YouTube, to name but a few, flood us with images of what earlier we might only have read or heard about. Many of us spend many hours each day looking at screens—a word with a paradoxical double meaning, for screens either obscure our vision, preventing us from seeing what we may want to see, or are surfaces on which we can present images, so enabling us to see what we want to see. They even allow us to present images of ourselves that may only be images of whom we might like to be rather than who we are. In fact, we live at a time in which the possibilities of presentations of images of the self seem almost endless—from Second Life and reality TV to Facebook and confessional television shows like those fostered by the Oprah network. Then, of course, there is the ever-present role of the image in political life, where spin is often all it seems to be about. We live at a time when almost anyone with a cell phone can be a photographer and almost everyone who can be, is, and people constantly email each other pictures of what is before them. But I suspect that even as more and more people become photographers, or at least take photographs, fewer and fewer people actually will look and see what is there to be seen. One only has to visit a museum these days to see people constantly aiming their cell phones at paintings with­ out ever looking at the paintings themselves. I cannot help wondering why they bother, since they could easily buy better reproductions in the museum shop, but perhaps the sad truth is that they don’t go to museums to see the art, but rather to be able to establish to others that Editor's Introduction xvii they were there. In other words, it is not the image of the painting that matters but the image of the self the person wishes to present, which of course is done via a screen. But our cell phone cameras also can allow us to see things we otherwise couldn’t. For examples, one need only remember the images of police brutality during the Green protests in Iran after the 2009 presidential election, when the image of Neda Agha-Soltan lying bloody and dead on a Teheran street went viral, or the images of protesting Egyptians in Tahrir Square, and, more recently, cell phone images of the police pepper-spraying, kneeling, hands-on-head Occupy Wall Street demonstrators on the University of California, Davis, campus. We have tried in this issue to come to terms with the many, often conflicting, roles images play in our lives, to understand how their uses and even meaning have changed, and to explore some of the many different meanings of this deceptively simple word. xviii social research ...


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