Using the Internet to crowdsource photo captions
Now that I had a (subjectively) funny image for the Mumedi brief, I wondered If I could take it further and make it into a meme-style graphic, similar to the ones I looked at before creating the image.
As memes are a medium born on the Internet, I thought it was only appropriated that I harnessed the power of the internet and it’s billions of users to help me with this project. I used the photo sharing website Imgur, ranked at 43 on the Alexa rank. Imgur allows users to share photos and comment on the images shared by other, random users. When users open the website or the app, they see an infinite photo grid or slideshow of uploaded pictures and can comment on or save any they like. In 2012 it was reported that Imgur received 346 billion image views, so I was curious to see what would happen if I uploaded my work.
By uploading my image, I thought it would be interesting to see how it is interpreted by a random selection of users across the world. Before uploading, I was not sure if it would get any captions at all, so this was done partly out of curiosity as this was my first time contributing to the site. I had only previously used the website to view images from other people.
As Imgur shows users the latest photos, I uploaded it multiple times throughout the day with the heading “caption this”. To my surprise, people started to write captions and upvote the image. It’s important to note that I had the full permission of the model in the image before uploading it all over the internet. Due to the nature of this being the internet, and many people having anonymous accounts, many users started to write captions with a sexual theme. As my full intention was to put this out there, and see what captions people came up with, I have included even the inappropriate comments below.
As soon as I uploaded the image, it was put on the homepage of the website, as the feed shows the most recent uploads first. So people loading the desktop site or opening the mobile app at that time were exposed to the image. I think I underestimated the number of users Imgur has as the ‘views’ ticker was constantly going up. It was like something from a film or a YouTube advert where an animation shows the view count constantly and rapidly going up; only this was happening in real time. Within an hour it had a couple of thousand views with the number of people viewing the image increasing steadily. I was getting an influx of notifications saying people were commenting on my image and leaving captions. People also have the option to ‘upvote’ or ‘downvote’ and image based on whether or not they like it. As many people were upvoting the image, its popularity rank increased yielding more views. After a couple of hours, the view count plateaued so I reuploaded it to target a new batch of users and generate a new set of captions.
Every now and then I would check the website to see if there were any new comments, and to my surprise almost everytime time new people were contributing. Although some of the comments were inappropriate or unusable, many made me laugh. This part of the project has shown me the unexpected things that can happen when you put your work in a different context and get contributions from random strangers over the Internet. As expected there was a mishmash of responses however it was fun to see what the next caption would-be. Hopefully as several thousand people viewed this image, and saw the many comments it brought a smile to people's faces in some ways addressing the brief 'to death with a smile'.
Some of the more useable captions were
"there goes dad making an ash of himself again."
"That's what you get for leaving me out of your will, grandma."
"Grandma gets the last laugh."
"That face you make emptying the vacuum canister."
"I told you I’d come back to haunt you"
"You'll be washing grandpa out of your hair for weeks."
"Now grandma really WILL be with her always"
The image was viewed a total of 4,450 times.