Things to know about the selfie economy

Thursday June 27 2019

Daredevil photographer Ervin Punkar uses a

Daredevil photographer Ervin Punkar uses a selfie stick to capture a photo from the very top of the 183m TV tower in Tartu, Estonia 


Selfies, which have become a global sensation in the last decade or so, have remarkably killed five times more people than shark attacks.
And the death toll has crept up incrementally each year as smartphones become more sophisticated and selfie-sticks increase the range at which people can snap themselves, prompting them to take bigger risks for the perfect shot.

Between October 2011 and November 2017, at least 259 people died taking selfies around the globe, according to India's Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care, compared to just 50 people killed by sharks in the same period.
While women take the most selfies, young men, who are more prone to take risks, make up three quarters of the selfie deaths -- in drownings, crashes, falls or shooting accidents.

India, with a population of more than 1.3 billion and 800 million cell phones, holds the record for the number of people dying in the act of photographing themselves, with 159 recorded so far.
That is more than half of the global total -- and a testament of sorts to the nation's love of group photos and its youthful population.
India has seen selfie-snapping groups of youths die when they were hit by a train or drowning when their boat sank at the moment they were clicking the shutter.

The situation has become so dire that India has set up "no selfie" zones -- 16 of them in the city of Mumbai alone.
The country came in far ahead of Russia (16 deaths), the United States (14) and Pakistan.
In Russia, people have fallen from bridges and high-rise buildings, shot themselves or even died while handling a land mine. Police issued a guide to "selfies without danger" in 2015.

In the United States, most of those involved in selfie deaths fatally shot themselves while seeking the perfect pose. A number of people have fallen to their deaths at the Grand Canyon.

President Museveni takes a stick selfie with

President Museveni takes a stick selfie with the Commonwealth youth leaders in August 2017. FILE PHOTO


Rescue services in Croatia used Twitter to ask tourists to "stop taking stupid and dangerous selfies" after a Canadian miraculously survived a 75-meter (250-foot) fall in the Plitvice lakes region.
In January, Taiwanese social media celebrity Gigi Wu -- known as the "Bikini Climber" for taking selfies on top of mountain peaks dressed in a bikini -- died when she fell into a ravine. She was 36.

Inappropriate selfie spots
Even when they are not fatal, selfies can be extremely macabre.
In 2014, a Brazilian woman sparked rage online when she took a smiling selfie in front of the coffin of presidential candidate Eduardo Campos at his funeral.
Social media influencer Sueli Toledo also caused a stir online when she posted a picture on Instagram with the caption, "My look today for the funeral of a super friend."

Selfies in places deemed sacred or hallowed -- especially when they honour the dead -- can also raise questions.
At the former Nazi death camp of Auschwitz in Poland, visited by 2.1 million people every year, museum staff do not hesitate to contact people who post selfies deemed to be inappropriate.
From Brazil to Vietnam and Germany, witnesses to traffic accidents have posted selfies at the scene of the crash -- generally seen as gauche.
More and more, selfies -- even in tourist havens -- are becoming a bit of a nuisance for locals.

Residents of the picturesque Rue Cremieux in Paris were so disturbed by the constant stream of selfie-snapping tourists outside their windows that they started their own Instagram account, clubcremieux, where they publish pictures of the most absurd posers outside their doors, skewering them with barbed captions.
The same thing happened in Hong Kong, where residents of the vast multi-colored Quarry Bay apartment complex put up signs banning photos.

This photograph taken on June 9, 2019 shows

This photograph taken on June 9, 2019 shows women posing for a selfie on the railway track in Hanoi's popular train street. AFP PHOTO

In Brazil, several youths made a buzz on Facebook in 2017 when they posted smiling selfies taken among terrified bus passengers who had thrown themselves to the floor during a shooting.

Facing the mad frenzy of endless selfies, Vienna has launched a campaign for a digital detox.
The Belvedere Museum has put up a large copy of Gustav Klimt's classic painting "The Kiss" near the original and added a giant red hashtag, so that visitors can take their selfie next to the facsimile and actually look at the real work of art.

Five things to know about the selfie economy
Long dismissed as a symptom of narcissistic youth culture, the not-so-humble selfie has become big business.
As hotels vie to become the next viral hotspot and new technology is developed to cater to those searching for that perfect picture of themselves, here are five things to know about selfies.

The beginning
When front-facing cameras were first added to primitive mobile phones in 2003, they were not intended for users to endlessly pose for self-portraits.
They were introduced on phones like the Sony Ericsson Z1010 to enable video calls for business meetings.

The experience economy
The ensuing selfie explosion was perfectly timed to take advantage of changing consumer habits during the rise of the "experience economy," a term first used by authors Joseph Pine II and James Gilmore in a 1998 issue of the Harvard Business Review.
They said that consumers were increasingly prioritising fleeting but expensive experiences -- such as fine dining or holidays to exotic locations -- over purchasing more traditional material goods.
It didn't hurt that such experiences could now be immortalised with a quick selfie shared on social media to masses of (hopefully envious) followers.

Indeed, consulting firm McKinsey & Company found that personal-consumption expenditures on "experience-related services" surged by 5.3 percent in the United States between 2014 and 2016, while spending on goods increased by only 2.5 percent.
In Western Europe meanwhile, spending on experiences jumped five percent between 2015 and 2017, compared to a 2.3 percent rise for goods.

In this file photo taken on March 24, 2019

In this file photo taken on March 24, 2019 Members of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) use a cell phone to take a "selfie" photograph in the village of Baghouz in Syria's eastern Deir Ezzor province near the Iraqi border, a day after the Islamic State (IS) group's "caliphate" was declared defeated by the US-backed Kurdish-led SDF. AFP PHOTO

Selfie spots
The image has been shared on social media so many times that you may have seen it already -- a swimmer paddling in a steaming infinity pool that sheers off onto a stunning vista of snowy Swiss Alps.
"The Hotel Villa Honegg in Switzerland has become very famous on social media for selfies in its swimming pool," says Johanne Saget, the head of "The One Consulting" firm that focuses on the luxury sector.
Other hotels not so blessed with such natural beauty have found others ways to court selfie tourists.

In 2014, the Mandarin Oriental luxury hotel launched a "Selfie in Paris" package tour of the French capital, costing a bracing 995 euros ($1,135).
In Athens, the Hotel Grand Bretagne has a designated "selfie spot" for pictures with the Acropolis in the background, while the Marriott hotel chain offers "selfie sticks" during check-in at its Desert Springs Resort in California.

Selfie tech
The rise of the selfie has also shaken the photography world as its centre of gravity has shifted towards Asia, where most smartphones are manufactured.
Chinese tech giant Huawei has become an industry leader for smartphone cameras after teaming up with Germany's Leica, while Xiaomi developed a selfie lens hidden under the phone's screen.
"This evolution (of mobile phone cameras) went side-by-side with social medias able to trail your life and what you do, and also recording everything," says Roberta Cozza, an analyst at American research firm Gartner.

The future
For Cozza, the "next big thing will be AI (artificial intelligence). Cameras will be able to help users to scan the environment, objects for example."
Samsung's "Bixby Vision" function on its new smartphones combines its AI voice assistant with augmented reality to recognise and classify objects captured by the camera.

The technology is still in its infancy, but could soon have myriad uses, including a new way to shop.
Say, for example, you like the look of the shoes a fellow commuter is wearing on the train. You could point the smartphone camera at the shoes, which would then find them online and let you immediately buy a pair.