The Post Photographic Project was dedicated a larger portion of time and therefore needed more substance behind it. In reference to David Campbell, I needed to research around my concept to build the context which would be the essential driving force behind my work. Both Jonathan Worth and Matt Johnston gave me some avenues of research which they felt would inform and strengthen my post photographic project, this blog post is dedicated to the analysis and examination of these resources.
The Social Media Revolution – Richard Stacey
In previous Phonar sessions Richard Stacey gave a talk which examined the social media revolution and speculated about the information we share online and the effect it has on us as an individual. To listen to the interview, follow the link below:
Printed media essentially was the catalyst for creation of media, the printing press introduced the idea of mass distribution and this in turn facilitated modern science, mass culture and media itself. The Internet drastically changed media in time however the early form was expensive with it being expensive to buy web space.
There has been a liberation of information through the new world of social media however just because social media has the capacity to communicate with everybody it doesn’t mean that the user wants to engage with everybody. Social media is a foreign concept to those who operate in traditional media, certain journalists try to apply their ideology to the world of social media without understanding or being able to navigate it.
News is longer an exclusive preview, it belongs to everybody and for this reason it doesn’t exist as a finished product anymore, it exists as a raw material. Although traditional media appears to misunderstand social media there are questions surrounding the capacity for collaboration; whether it would work and whether it would actually be necessary. Social media examines content in a completely different manner to that of traditional media, as they have a different business model. There are speculations as to whether news can actually be told without journalists and conventional media and whether social media could take over.
Media itself is not a singularity anymore, it is split into information and distribution, different media producers have to define their business model as either a producer of content or a distributer of it. Typically publications publish content that is deemed ‘fit to print’ however who decides the importance of each piece and whether it should be included? Social media in contrast embraces all content but uses the information from searches and activity to determine which content is relevant to each user. However there are certain disadvantages to this online filter bubble as identified by Eli Pariser in his Ted Talk.
Digital technology does however have an advantage in the world of media, Richard Stacey likened it to that of a bonfire stating although the whole population can’t fit around a bonfire however it is possible to fuel this bonfire to last indefinitely so that all the population can visit it. The future of content is to use narrative, content is validated and made effective through the process of storytelling.
In extension social media can cause a person to share and disclose information to more avenues that they would in their everyday life. Google and other search devices can use data to formulate an overview of an individual through the data that is archived online. We thinking sharing inconsequential data online is completely safe and won’t have any consequences however Richard Stacey states that this view is ‘fundamentally wrong’. In it’s most extreme case, sharing inconsequential data could result in an individual being put on a terrorist subject list due to their personal preferences online. Inconsequential information is valuable and vulnerable when shared over the Internet, can an individual trust online organisations to maintain confidentiality and privacy?
The Visual Display of Quantitative Information – Edward R. Tufte
In response to my proposition of looking at data visualisation, Matt Johnston advised I consider this title as it explains data visualisation and outlines the different methods in which data can be presented. I read through the title and picked out some meaningful points and key concepts that would benefit me when producing my own forms of data visualisation.
Graphical displays should show the data to encourage the viewer to compare and consider, it should also reveal the data
Data visualisations are ultimately a way in presenting data that makes it easier for the viewer to consider the outcome, it is much easier to see a positive correlation in a scattergraph than in a list of numbers. In this respect it demonstrates the power of the visual experience, however I am most accustomed to this concept in relation to photography.
Data maps are effective in terms of location-specific data
In terms of location specific data, it is extremely effective to display this data with the aid of a map. When I studied Human Geography I noticed that data mapping is most commonly used when tracking infectious diseases as the individual can identify the origin the disease, it’s current movement and they may potentially be able to predict and prevent any further spread.
Pictorial data is effective in showing movement
Eadweard Muybridge’s images of the horse galloping could be consiered as data visualisation as it does depict an investigation into the gait of the horse and whether all four feet leave the ground. Other examples include the movement of the lizard across the floor and the movement of the starfish turning over.
Graphical excellence requires telling the truth about the data
Graphics shouldn’t quote data out of context
These two concepts are interrelated; as David Campbell explained, a narrative is the most effective and sustainable when informed by context therefore it would stand to reason that this concept is the same for data analysis. In an investigation the data and the presentation of it needs to be truthful otherwise the impressions and conclusions drawn from the visual output won’t be accurate or useful.
It should show data variation, not design variation
Design should always remain consistent in an environment when the content can fluctuate, where there is instability in one element there needs to be stability in the structure and nature. This is an aspect that Matt Johnston identified in my feedback session when he explained that the colours of my blog needed to stay consistent to be effective.
Think of the audience looking at the designs
The audience you mean to identify with is an important part of the visualisation process as different presentation methods would suit different people. This will be the same in terms of design as well, where a younger audience would prefer a simpler method of data presentation with a greater variety and vibrance of colour, an older audience would benefit from a more complex method of presentation as they may be able to analyse and interpret the information in a more sophisticated manner.
Higher data matrices are good
In both data analysis and statistics, a greater amount of data will always be better for the project as the visual outcome will be stronger. For example if there were only five cases of a disease identified and placed on a map it would be much harder to track the progress of the disease and find the origin however if there were thousands of cases recorded it visually there would be much more to work with.
Avoid content-free decoration
To maintain the viewer gets the best out of the content there should be no distractions, there should only be the data and the numbers to help read it. There shouldn’t be distracting backgrounds or variations in design as mentioned before in the previous section.
Have a narrative story
It is interesting to think of data having a narrative however as we have explored in Phonar there needs to be a narrative to be able to construct and tell a story. In this case the data would explain the results of the investigation and would perhaps would be part of telling a bigger story for example tracking the development of a country or movement of the population.
It must have a series of relevant scale
As with cases of investigation and presentation there needs to be accompanying information to help the viewer make sense of it; in photojournalism there often needs to be a caption with the image and in data presentation there needs to be a scale.
I have really benefitted from reading this book because it has made me realise that the Wordle I created to visually present the Facebook likes of Geoff is an ineffective piece because it resembles a data visualisation therefore the audience will be searching to extract information from it. Although it does look interesting there is no way I could create this concept into an effective data visualisation as each Facebook like was only listed once, if there was repetition in the data I could portray this however as there isn’t I needed to reconsider. I decided to focus my efforts in data visualisation around the statistics taken from Twitonomy as this would enable me to work with a decent amount of data and therefore be able to produce effective visual outcomes.
Andreas Mueller Pohle – Digital Scores
Media based artist Andreas Mueller Pohle examines coding in relation to digital, genetics and politics; the project I am interested in to link to my Post Photographic Project is Digital Scores.
Here Muller Pohle examines the structure and composition of the photograph; as we have defined in Phonar the photograph is very much the product of analogue photography and Cartier Bresson’s ‘decisive moment’. However Muller Pohle manages to take this physical print and translate it into alphanumerical signs through the use of digital coding. The results are a binary description of the original print, indicating a shift from the concept of visual representation to the representation of data.
This is extremely interesting as it builds on the ideas started in the Phonar discussions around the role and purpose of the photograph in the digital age following the recent paradigm shift. The process perhaps replicates the attempt of digital migrants to adapt and change their ideology in order to immerse themselves in the digital. Digital natives and digital photography however have a concrete place in this revolution as they essentially are the product.
This could however be considered as an accurate representation for the role and place analogue photography has in the digital age. The evidential nature of film photography created the notion that the visual content of the image could be counted on as factual information, therefore in digital world where digital photographs are considered to be conceptual and metaphorical does it make sense that the visual representation of analogue photography is data? It provokes the question as to whether there is this continuing need for analogue photography to work alongside or perhaps counteract the process of digital photography; especially in fields such as journalism. If we continue to expand and stretch the parameters of visual truth in digital photography should we dedicate the field of photojournalism to this evidential medium of photography? Obviously the consequences of which would be an immediate deceleration of pace and media would struggle to keep up with the immediacy of digital photography. However throughout all of these discussions there is the connotation of context and credibility, both analogue and digital cameras have the capacity to create a truthful, evidential narrative however it does take that responsible photographer to fulfil this notion.
In application to my Post Photographic Portrait I believe that the aspect of representation changing from the physical to virtual is essentially the reason why the information for my project is on the Internet. Personal representation relies less on the physical appearance of the individual and more on the various constructed personas on social media websites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The use of these websites however are causing an increase in the amount of inconsequential data being spread online. Although there are communication tools embedded into the social media platforms, the reality is that physical communication, although not convenient, is perhaps the most effective form of communication. Even information that you thought was private is probably not owned by you; who owns your email?
Robbie Cooper – Alter Egos
Robbie Cooper is a previous contributor to Phonar, he works to look at the gaming culture and the effect it has had on individuals. His series Alter Ego examines the concept of self representation of the user in virtual environments; it takes a game player and contrasts their physical appearance to that of their Avatar (personal character in the game open to customisation). It focuses on the value of the virtual reality for each individual; for some it is an extension of their self however for others it is a liberation to become completely different.
The concept of self representation in the digital world is an extremely interesting topic and it is expanded with the idea of virtual reality. There are of course dangers of becoming so immersed and invested in this virtual reality that the drive for physical life becomes lost however are these counteracted by the offer of this temporary escape from the physical world? What is interesting on a personal level is the comparison between the person and their avatar, the similarities and differences between them and the constant curiosity of men to have their avatar as a woman.
In addition to this is the issue of virtual reality and relationships as a product of the digital era. In some instances it has lead to strange and sometimes destructive situations which have been exposed and examined by the MTV documentary series ‘CatFish’ in which creators Nev and Matt support Internet users in finding the truth about their romantic interests found through online sources.
It is the safety of anonymity and the intangible nature of the Internet that encourages investment from individuals perhaps lacking the confidence to communicate but in addition to this for conflicted individuals searching for an outlet for their frustration. Although freedom of speech is an important value in a democracy there must always be this attachment of responsibility behind it.
In relation to my Post Photographic Portrait the notion of being invested in virtual realities is really interesting as the individual for which I am creating this portrait is in the gaming culture and does have many different personal representations. The notion of visually exploring and presenting these alternative personas is a process I can engage with and complete for my project. The concept of anonymity online has become ambiguous with many different purposes for this ‘faceless’ representation. It is those destructive individuals that have caused terminology such as ‘trolls‘ to be created and actually targeted by those in power; those convicted in England and Wales could, as of 2014, face a 2 year sentence.
There are measures there to protect your identity for safety reasons however with individuals manipulating these laws in order to attack other Internet users, the idea of safety online has been greatly reduced. In pockets of the Internet there is a toxicity and it is spreads across various different platforms such as Twitter and Facebook with individuals receiving abuse in the form of insults or even rape and death threats.
The updating regulations on vicious Internet activity is a process that is definitely needed to increase the currently diminishing sense of safety online. Fred Ritchin addressed the digital revolution in relation the example of the motor car, pointing out that although it brought around the liberation in travel, it also was responsible for a large portion of climate change. Perhaps this changing psychology of those using the Internet is one of the detrimental effects the world will see as a result of the recent paradigm shift.
For The Win – Cory Doctorow
Cory Doctorow is an author, journalist, blogger and activist who is involved with the ideology of Phonar, all of his work is available with the Creative Commons license for people to use and remix; primarily this is used for converting his books into different formats. It was suggested to me by Jonathan that I read his book ‘For The Win’ which is a fictional piece detailing the lives of young adult gamers that excel in their chosen fields however are being oppressed by the powerful figures in society. There are different political and cultural concepts being hinted to such as the exploitation of those working to support the consumers of the electronic industry. As I didn’t get to read the full book I supplemented by understanding with Doctorow’s blurb of the piece and with reviews from other readers which can be found by following the links below.
The issues surrounding the gaming culture expand far wider than the issues of anonymity and representation examined previously in my reflection of Robbie Cooper’s work. The very industry is supported by the Blood Mineral culture where workers are exploited and worked by the militias who have seized power in order to produce the materials to make our technology. I really related to the constant connotations to the cultural and political issues and I think the liberation of fiction allows greater creative expression for concepts such as this as opposed to standard photojournalism. There are instances where games themselves have become a reference to post modernism such as the Grand Theft Auto series from Rockstar, the latest game has been praised for it’s examination of modern society as the article below investigates:
Grand Theft Auto focuses of the life of a protagonist whose stereotypical cultural characteristics dictate his ideology meaning that the nature of the game is to progress through committing organised crime instead of conforming to the structure of modern society. The open-world nature of the game means that the player can freely take advantage of the environment created to complete menial activities such as forming friendships, dating virtual women and styling themselves using the various virtual clothing stores. It balances the creation and consideration of cultural images with basic game appeal as the conventional achievement structure still stands however with controversial awards. The use of sature to examine the stereotypical views of culture and relationships seen in modern society work to break down boundaries in race and class. It makes pointed references to the sexism, consumerism and anarchism seen in culture today.
Games have been identified as an effective learning tool as explored in the following article:
Bleasdale referenced the need to address different audiences in his Phonar interview, pointing out that photojournalists engaging with the conventional publications are ‘preaching to the converted’. In order to make real change an individual needs to target those who will best benefit a learning experience and for this reason he collaborated with Patrick O’Luanaigh, CEO of nDreams to create a game discussing his work in the Congo. The idea of games as a teaching tool is being explored in educational organisations such as the Think Out Loud Club which has experimented with technology such as the oculus rift which offers a fully immersive experience. It seems that games are another ‘tool’ on offer to us as Shahidul Alam described, perhaps the potenial of games and other immersive experiences will cause a shift in the telling of news narratives.
In relation to my specific project it is really interesting how the gaming culture is such a driving force behind the digital revolution; most of the contributors in the top YouTube lists are involved with some form of gaming. The person in question I am producing a portrait of is a influential member of the gaming community and his career now revolves around the production and distribution of gaming related videos. In terms of gaming and inconsequential information I think perhaps as they are one of the most at risk because they are followed by a community of digital migrants that are probably aware of how to attempt to extract this inconsequential data online.
The Whale Hunt – Jonathan Harris
In my feedback session Matt Johnston brought my attention to this website and said my blog needed it’s fluidity, something which I hope to have achieved. This website is extremely dynamic and allows a great amount of choice for the viewer to navigate through the story and concentrate on each individual story within the greater story of the whale hunt. There is a timeline along the bottom which is a data visualisation because it shows the fluctuation and indicates what time period in which the most photographs were taken and you as a viewer can investigate why and what they were photographing. There is also the ability to pick a keyword and view that photographs that associate with it, for example if you choose the word whale you are mostly likely to view all of the photographs when the whale has been caught.
This website is extremely effective and is something I definitely want to attempt to replicate with my blog, I understand the notion of fluidity through the many different choices available. The piece working along the format of a timeline is extremely effective as the events did unfold over the course of the day and you can define as David Campbell said, the moments of ‘exposition, conflict and resolution’. Although creative, the structure and design of the piece is slightly clinical demonstrating the rule from the ‘The Visual Display Of Quantitative Information’, where if the content is fluid, the design needs to be structured. I want to take the keyword concept and apply this to my blog, I could split the different pieces of content into different categories according to their nature such as look, listen, read.
I know where your cat lives – Laura and Ben
Laura Ritchie in an influential contributor of this Post Photographic Portrait Task as it was her who performed the piece Jill Jarmen wrote. In addition to this her husband Ben gave the talk on security which I listened to as part of preparation for this course. It was for these reasons that I decided to get in touch and talk to them about my idea as it relates to the idea of security when releasing and sharing data online.
They replied saying that my project sounds like an interesting concept and gave me this website to look at, referring to the fact that the inconsequential data shared by an individual can be used to produce any kind of result.
This website relates to the idea of location based data however instead of a mass of data, it deals with each individual example of cat and their owner posting information which reveals their location. Although this is quite a light hearted example it does provoke a number of questions as to how easy it would be for an individual to find your address due to photographs you have posted with various locations. GPS can be a highly beneficial tool in terms of navigation however when embedded into the metadata of photographs and other communications such as tweets, it can expose your exact location to individuals that may not have your best interest in mind! Safety is a key concept and although the faceless, anonymous nature of the Internet appears to have that safety and confidentiality there are always dangers in security. For example the National Security Agency in the USA uses code breaking methods to analyse and interpret data that was meant to be secret such as emails and other transmissions, although meant to ensure the safety of the population it can be considered as a violation of that confidentiality we expected to have from our emails.