This is interesting. One of the themes, or leitmotifs, of post-transition photography seems to be the use of photographs as data. I'm not really capable of evaluating the rigor of the methodology of "How an Algorithm Learned to Identify Depressed Individuals by Studying Their Instagram Photos," but the source, MIT Technology Review, is prestigious.
Bottom line? Researchers have trained a machine to diagnose depression based on the photos you post on Instagram.
An interesting idea. I've heard of discussions about how slow, sad music seems richer and more meaningful to depressed people, and that depressed teenagers tend to listen to music more than their non-depressed peers. In the old movie Three Days of the Condor, Robert Redford's character diagnoses the lonliness of Faye Dunaway's character, ostensibly a photographer, from her pictures on her wall. (The article says that pictures without people in them might be "sad selfies" of the photographer's mental state, but concedes that this "hypothesis is untested.")
I also don't know how the machine could separate authentic sad photos from poseur sad photos. But maybe there's a way.
The article concludes by saying that such algorithms "provide hope that mental illness can be accurately detected earlier, allowing for more effective intervention," which seems dubious. How's that supposed to work—you get an email from someone saying that their robot has detected that you're depressed, based on pictures you've posted online?
Seems to me if you were depressed, you might just find that...depressing.
But as I say, I'm not really qualified to evaluate.
(Thanks to Ned Bunnell, whose photos on Instagram make him seem like a happily retired businessman)
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