We RAW photographers are maybe not the main target audience of the project “I Am Sitting In Stagram”, since we are well-acquainted with the disadvantages of data-formats where compression automatically entails a loss of quality. Even if the “digital negative” requires much more digital real estate and cannot be opened or viewed without a converter, there are still many a good reason to use it. One of the most important, apart from the superior image quality, is the increased flexibility when editing the photos.
A lot of pixel peepers claim that jpegs with a compression of 85% look terrible already. However, it gets very bad very fast when a jpeg is repeatedly saved. This happens a lot on the Internet, especially if an interesting article is published on one site and then re-published on a lot of other pages. If the article goes viral, the title image is compressed and uploaded or saved in a compressed format many times in a row. The more often this happens, the worse image quality gets. This increasing loss of quality from one copied generation to the next is called generation loss.
Inspired by Alvin Luciers Experiment “I Am Sitting In A Room” – which dealt with generation loss in the audio sector – the artist Pete Ashton uploaded a self-portrait to Instagram, then took a screenshot of the uploaded picture and uploaded this new image. He repeated the procedure 90 times. The following grid makes the increasing loss of quality visible. The top left is the original, bottom right the copy of the 90th generation:
And here again in large:
In the following video you can see what happens to videos if they are uploaded repeatedly to YouTube: