352mc – Professional Photographic Practice is the largest and most important module of the third year in that it accounts for a large proportion of the final mark. It consists of two assignments, a project proposal and a professional body of work which would go forward to be exhibited in our degree show at the end of May. In addition to this we would be marketing our our pieces and work towards creating another aspect such as a catalogue however this process would go towards the 354mc Professional Practice Portfolio.
In the beginning lecture of the module we covered the assessment requirements and were introduced to the assignment brief for each assessment. At the end of the lecture we were set the task of writing a sample proposal for the following week, this would help our course tutors identify which external practitioners to bring in to give us tutorials. It would also help for us to start focusing our ideas early and presenting them to the tutors; this is an area that we are weak on as a class.
I went away and made a list of all the areas I am interested in that I could pursue further in my final major project:
- Photographic Truth – taking inspiration from Ritchin & the National Geographic Image
- Photojournalism and Representation – following the Phonar sessions on collaborative negotiation
- Catfish – inspired by a documentary which explores romance trickery on the Internet
- Trolling – abusive behaviour in the online world which is encouraged by the lack of responsibility
- Digital communication – how online communication differs from face to face and how that may impact the individual
- The digital world – the difference between representation and identity
- Other issues involved in the digital age and how this is impacting society
- Artificial Intelligence and the possible threat to humanity
After researching and exploring around all the possible concepts, I narrowed it down to two key concepts which I was particularly interested in: digital/online communication and artificial intelligence. Having researched around all of the concepts I also identified that some of them would perhaps merge together or interlink with each other, for example Catfishing is a form of online communication formed around romance, and representation is a form of communication, especially when through social media platforms.
Artificial intelligence is a topic which is being widely discussed with individuals such as Stephen Hawking giving their opinions and forecasting what could potentially happen. Hawking explained that his system which helps him speak often suggests words for him to use based on the content and dynamic of the sentence being formed; however this made him feel a bit like his speech was being adapted, like the computer was steadily taking control. Hawking is forecasting a society where humans teach the artificial intelligence to be so clever that eventually the technology will take control and the humans will be phased out. This idea has been explored in popular culture, with the iconic Matrix films exploring a world where the computers harvest the humans using technology, and the recent Ex Machina which creates a modern-day Turing Test, in which the protagonist has to confront what real ‘life’ actually is. In many cases, artificial intelligence has been mistaken for actual consciousness, this idea emerged with the Turing Test, where the individual takes on the challenge of identifying if they are talking to a real human being or a computer. My initial research revealed that artificial intelligence hasn’t been taken on by many, if any photographers, suggesting it is either a tricky subject area to tackle, or that it is still recent enough to be untouched. This concept lends itself to much discussion however I’m not completely sure on the potential for a creative project, especially as I am not very good with coding and I feel this project may take a web-based route.
Online communication is a more lucrative subject which has been widely explored in predominately in video and documentary. Just recently Channel Four showed their drama ‘Cyber Bully’ which explored the issues surrounding abusive behaviour online, the possible consequences and the morals of the online space. This drama challenges the viewer by presenting them with a main character who has cyber bullied, who in turn is attacked by a hacker, continually the viewer must decide whether the actions are right or wrong and which character to feel sympathy for. The concept of online communication and the issues surrounding identity has been explored in the film and now TV series ‘Catfish’. The film and TV series explore the act of ‘catfishing’, a term that was created in this process of the initial film. Catfishing is where an individual online takes the pictures and details from a different online user to mask their identity and create a new one, with the view of attracting romantic attention. Quite often the catfish chooses images from an attractive online user to boost their likelihood of gaining initial interest however the general intention is to try and establish a relationship, however there have been some cases where the catfish is simply trying to get revenge or create havoc. The dynamic of the film and the documentary is kept the same each time, and the end point is to try and expose the catfish to see whether they are the person they claim to be, in most cases the person is completely different however in some instances it has been the truth. The ease of manipulation and masking identity online has created an environment where it is extremely hard to trust each individual you come across, as there is a strong likelihood they are changing some element of themselves. This can be as simple as photographing themselves from a particular angle each time for a profile picture however this might not be indicative of their actual physical appearance. In addition to the term ‘catfish’ there has also been the emergence of the term ‘trolling’ which describes abusive behaviour, predominately on platforms which offer the chance to comment and reply to content that has been posted. Trolling is perhaps more common where the user can withhold their identity, acting anonymously or under a false name. The lack of association has meant that the user doesn’t have to take responsibility for what they say, the worst that can happen is the platform suspends or closes down their account. This suppression of emotions also occurs on a smaller scale, it is a well-known occurrence for most users of social networking sites to observe debates between individuals where the tone can become progressively negative.
With only a small amount of research completed on each concept, it was clear to see that online communication interests me more and offers a greater capacity for my Final Major Project. Although artificial intelligence also interests me, I don’t think the area was appropriate for me to explore photographically. I made the decision to explore online communication for my final project and used the brief research I had completed already to fill in my first proposal using the given template. I paid specific attention to the schedule and made the effort to plan out what I wanted to achieve each week. Although I couldn’t plan what content I would produce when, I set out some milestones to try and stick to in order to keep my project on track. My initial proposal can be seen below: