Technology

The Role of Meetings in the Rise of the Selfie

Is the selfie an unintended consequence of meeting technology?

A photogenic stretch of cobblestoned street in the Dumbo neighborhood in Brooklyn, where Convene has space in the Made in NY Media Center, is a popular spot for selfies.

Collectively, we take more than a million selfies a day, which is a lot, even taking into account outliers like a man in the U.K. who, the BBC reported, takes 200 selfies a day. 

The era of instant, inexpensive, and immediate self-portraits began in 2003, when Sony began installing front-facing cameras into flip phones. But the selfie really became a fixture of modern life with the rise of social platforms like Facebook and Instagram — 1,000 selfies are posted on Instagram every second.

However, the front-facing camera wasn’t initially added to phones with the intention of enabling self-portraits, according to the editors of The Objects That Power the Global Economy, published by Quartz. Phone designers thought that the camera would be a boon to videoconferencing, allowing users to ditch their desktops or laptop computers and conduct business meetings wherever they were, using their smartphones.

 The technology that powers smartphone cameras, active pixel sensors, uses a grid of transistors covered by filters which detect light signals and translates them into images. It was first developed in the 1990s by NASA as a way to miniaturize cameras for use in space travel.

You could say that all the threads of the story came together at the Space Exploration Education Conference held at the Space Center in Houston last February, where science teachers and other attendees posed questions to astronaut educators aboard the International Space Station — via a videoconference. And there likely were a few selfies taken at the conference as well.

Barbara Palmer

Barbara Palmer is senior editor and director of digital content.