Transformation; how the digital creates new realities

A lesson about how digital technology has stirred our imagination and enabled us to create new realities. At the same time we need to be sceptical about the merits of an all-encompassing digital lifestyle.

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about the lesson S


This lesson is inspired by the concept of transformation. It deals with how technology has changed the way we communicate and transfer knowledge and how the ‘digital’ has created new encounters that seem real, but sometimes are able to deceive and seduce our senses.

A short animation presents how digital technology facilitates the processes of transformation. The idea that a person, animal, or object can change its appearance has inspired artists, scholars, and inventors for centuries. With the advent of digital technology the ease with which one can create, manipulate, and share content online has ‘democratized’ the ability to transform reality. The plethora of web applications that are at our disposal allows us to ‘transform’ or ‘enhance’ reality into a virtual experience in a split second. At the same time, this freedom on the web and accessibility of tools can have detrimental effects on the credibility of information, creating the risk of manipulating audiences by the spread of ‘fake news’. The following assignments deal with the advantages and disadvantages of digital cultures and highlight the timeless idea of transformation, from Greek mythology to computer algorithms.

watch this animation S


S Transformations.

A brief video about how digital technology has enhanced our potential to create new realities.

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M Assignments (5)

1 out of 5 — Screenshots and Image Recognition Software

All of the images from the clip ‘Transformation’ that you just saw originated somewhere else. They have been copied and pasted in a new context thanks to technologies that allow you to ‘transform’ and retrieve images. This assignment revolves around Image Recognition Software, also known as Computer Vision. You will first learn how to create a screenshot of an image and inspect its corresponding metadata. Then, you will learn how to use software to find where an image on the web originally comes from. Finally, you will analyse the image using digital source criticism tools. This will allow you to trace the origin of the image to its publication in a digital representation in an online environment, documenting the transformations it has undergone in order to reach its most recent stage.


35 min

1.a Inspect screen shots

50 min

1.b Explore Image Recognition Tools

50 min

1.c Applying Digital Source Criticism to screenshots

Reading/viewing suggestions

learning outcomes

  • Learn how digital technology is applied to copy images and how this automatically generates metadata (information about the copy that has been created)

  • Learn the basic principles of image recognition and how this contributes to a move from textual to multimodal forms of communication.

  • Learn how to apply source criticism to a digital representation of an object that has been published online.

2 out of 5 — The Right to Copy: The Role of Copyright in Transformation

Copying and re-using images and texts is easier than ever before since the advent of digital technology. However, during the same period the risk of infringement of the rights of an author or artist has also increased, as it becomes more difficult to control the way in which his or her work is used or to prevent other people from financially exploiting it. To diminish this risk, specific arrangements have been made to regulate the use of images on the web. This assignment focuses on these arrangements and how they can differ, sometimes greatly, from country to country.

45 min
25 min
15 min

2.c What kind of creativity has been put in the clip ‘Transformation’?

Reading/viewing suggestions:

learning outcomes

  • Learn about the origin of copyright and what arrangements have been made on the web to both protect the rights of authors while at the same time ensuring that content that can be shared freely.

3 out of 5 — Changes in Meaning: Metamorphosis and Transformation in Language and Images

In the ‘Transformation’ clip, the claim is made that digital technology enhances the processes of transformation, which is why the term is so often used in combination with that of ‘digital’. In this assignment, you are going to explore the meaning of the term ‘transformation’ as well as the related term ‘metamorphosis’. You will also trace back the changes in the meaning of both terms by using the Google Ngram Viewer tool.

20 min

3.a Interpretations and origins of two key terms: ‘metamorphosis’ and ‘transformation’

55 min

3.b Changes in how the terms ‘transformation’ and ‘metamorphosis’ are used in language.

30 min

3.c Metamorphosis and Ovid: the classic source

40 mins

3.d Metamorphosis depicted in paintings

Reading/viewing suggestions

learning outcomes

  • Understand the various interpretations of the concept of ‘transformation’

4 out of 5 — ‘Transforming’ your appearance online

As shown in the ‘Transformation’ clip, medical technologies enable us to change our appearance. This can vary from the reconstruction of limbs, to transgender individuals undergoing sex reassignment surgery, to injecting botox under our skin to make ourselves look younger. However, there is also a link between physical transformation and digital technology in the sense that social media offer the possibility to expose an ‘idealised’ version of one’s self, as well as having fun with friends by using face-morphing apps. In this assignment, the argument is put forward that digital technology enhances the tendency to be dissatisfied with real life and create alternative worlds. As such, you are invited to reflect on this position and your own use of social media.

45 min

4.a Transforming your appearance: narcissism

15 min

4.b Transformation can be fun!

learning outcomes

  • Learn how digital technology and social media enhance the potential for self-fashioning and experimenting with changing one’s appearance as well as how innovations in digital technology generate apps that can be used for entertainment.

5 out of 5 — From Credible to Misleading: the problem of addiction and Fake News

At the end of the ‘Transformation’ clip, the question of whether or not we can trust digital technologies and the web is raised. The very existence of this teaching platform that can be accessed by anyone throughout the world at no cost other than an internet connection illustrates the enormous potential benefit of this technology. But as with anything in excess, there can be detrimental effects of exorbitant use of the web and of specific applications. There is the risk of addiction to video games or social media as well as the risk of isolation when people substitute digital connections for physical ones. You can end up in a filter bubble, meaning that you only receive and listen to information that connects and confirms your preferences and worldview. The risk that is most talked about at present, is that of the mobilizing power of unreliable and misleading news, also known as ‘fake news’. In these assignments, you are going to deal with the diverse ways in which digital technology can impact our lives.

35 min

5.a Can we trust the digital? Mental health issues

80 min

5.b Can we trust the digital? The origin and character of fake news

40 min

5.c Ways of checking the reliability of information on the web: From fact checking to the CRAP test

learning outcomes

  • Assess the risks that are connected to the excessive use of the web as the sole mode of contact or information gathering and how to asses the quality of the information on the web.