It’s never been easier or to craft your own public persona than it is today. Thanks to affordable technological tools–particularly the surprisingly, high-quality digital camera with which virtually every smartphone is equipped–anyone with basic, fine-motor skills can generate endless self-portraits. It goes something like this: 1. Pick up your phone. 2. Press the camera icon–and don’t forget to select the option that let’s you point and shoot without even flipping the device around. 3. Extend your arm outward–distance varies and is only limited by the length of your arm. 4. Observe your face on the screen and make desired adjustments. 5. Smile, pout, stick out your tongue, look sultry, or otherwise express yourself. 6. Press the fake shutter button and hold still ever so briefly. 7. Check the end result and repeat if necessary.
Critics lament the popularity and persistence of the so-called “selfie,” regarding the trend as, in some ways, emblematic of a larger cultural fixation with instant gratification, self-absorption or narcissism, and possibly even mental health problems. Most people, particularly the more youthful ones with whom the trend most seems to appeal, seem less shameless self promoters than fans of the ease with which one can document life, from the milestones to minutiae, placing the self front and center in said visual documents.
Enter Japanese clothing retailer, Uniqlo, whose trendy empire has expanded over the past ten years and whose garments, with their appeal to a generally more youthful market, no doubt feature in a good number of selfies these days. Uniqlo has launched a new effort to encourage social consciousness and responsibility. The campaign, called “The Uniqlo Selfless Selfie Project,” aims to engage its customers in a kind of selfless self-promotion with the end result being that a charity of each customer’s choice benefits.
Uniqlo’s event page explains the impetus behind the project: “In the spirit of Uniqlo clothing–LifeWear, which aims to support everyday life in a positive way–we’re searching the world for the most innovative people who are positively impacting everyday life. Show us how you’re doing it. It’s simple. Snap, pledge and post a selfless selfie.”
This is where 3D printing comes in and where the selfie takes on a third dimension. A participant takes a selfie. Uniqlo provides some encouragement and parameters in this regard: “Make it unique, interesting and not just about you,” which seems like an interesting challeng given the context. They explain, however: “Show us how you’ll do a little good to make everyday life a little better.” This selfie is an action shot, in other words, and relates to the second step in their list of instructions for participation. “Pledge your selfie to doing some everyday good. For whatever or whomever you want. Donate to a favorite cause, visit your grandmother, or be nice to a stranger, every day.”
Just when you begin feeling that warm flush you get from doing the right thing (and getting the necessary documentation of yourself in the act), the next step takes you back to your non-selfless self: “Post,” urges Uniqlo, and when you’re posting, be sure to fill in the blank in the following sentence: “I give my #3DSelfie to ___________.” Don’t forget to add “#UNIQLOCity” when you “post your selfie “to your favorite social network.”
But what about the 3D printing component of this project? Uniqlo selects the best selfies from all parts of the globe, at least the ones where their products are available, transforms then into 3D scans, and then creates small–seemingly about 6 inches tall–3D reproductions of the project participants. This part of the project suggests that selfies feature entire bodies rather than the standard face-only self-portraits.
The Selfless Selfie Project also helps Uniqlo pilot a new in-store (right now, limited to stores in New York City and San Francisco) holiday season 3D project: the old-school photo booth has gone 3D! This Christmas season, select Uniqlo stores will be equipped with 3D-scanning booths thanks to DOOB. “What is DOOB?” Asks the company’s website. “DOOB connects the innovation of 3D technology to consumers and their everyday lives. Get scanned in our 3D photo booth, the DOOB-licator, stationed at convenient retail locations, then have your very own DOOB, a lifelike 3D printed figure of yourself, delivered direct to your door.”
The 3D-printed battalion of selfie avatars will together comprise what Uniqlo is calling its “3D Selfless Selfie Exhibition.” The reward for each participant? Uniqlo promises that “participants will be invited to attend the opening 3D Selfless Selfie Exhibition in their city,” although it isn’t clear whether they mean major cities or cities that actually have Uniqlo stores. Aside from somewhat shameless self-promotion, Uniqlo and contest participants raise awareness about the necessity of reaching out to others in a positive and ideally selfless way, and at front and center is 3D printing, which also gets some interesting PR.