Commonwealth

Commonwealth is a series of images depicting virtual landscapes, inspired by and made through the video game Fallout 4. This project is an experiment relating to the concept of naive realism, which proposes that reality itself is a flawed concept and therefore the practice of photography can’t depict the entirety of reality as humans perceive it. The series of images also depicts the journey of my character through the environment of the game world, the Commonwealth and my journey as a player into the gaming community. In addition to this, my series of images supports the discussions around considering video games as art and therefore considering the post-photography produced through video games as art too.

My practice could be considered post-photographic as it is challenging the historic analogue belief that photography represents the real, by deliberately capturing the unreal or virtual. In addition to this, the camera plays a different role in the practice of video games, it is the device through which the player sees and perceives the environment. Just as the viewer of the photograph perceives the world through the frame of the photograph, the player of video games sees the word through the lens of this virtual camera. However this lens is the only way through which an individual can interact with the world, which means that each player’s experience of the game is highly specific to what they see when playing.

Commonwealth is a visual project that aims to introduce the viewer to the world of gaming, through an experiment inspired by discussions around naive realism. Perhaps some viewers will look at the landscapes depicted and believe that they are real, however for some it may teach them to look closer and consider that not everything they see in an image is a version of reality, as reality itself is incredibly complex. Lastly I hope that fans of the game Fallout 4 will see these images, recognise the landscape and be reminded of their own experience of the game, their specific play through and their own relationship with the gaming community.

Below is a preview of the photo book Commonwealth and a downloadble PDF

COMMONWEALTH

Sociality Barbie

Sociality Barbie is an Instagram account run by a person who is known as Darby, however when the Sociality Barbie account was first created it was anonymous. It simply appeared as if the Barbie was creating the posts as a real person, on first glance some of the images in the account could look like a real person, but when you look closer it is clear that it is the popular mass-made doll.

Screen Shot 2016-05-02 at 16.17.17

The Sociality Barbie account was created to make a satirical comment on popular Instagram culture, to replicate the images that are seen so often on Instagram. Darby creates the notion that there is little individuality and authenticity in these images, they are effectively as mass produced as the Barbie. Sociality Barbie gained a lot of attention as people identified the similarity between the images on this account, to the images that are regarded as popular on Instagram.

Screen Shot 2016-04-27 at 14.23.59

Screen Shot 2016-04-27 at 14.25.07

Screen Shot 2016-04-27 at 14.26.02

Screen Shot 2016-04-27 at 14.27.01

Screen Shot 2016-04-27 at 14.27.28

Screen Shot 2016-04-27 at 14.28.03

Screen Shot 2016-04-27 at 14.28.47

Screen Shot 2016-04-27 at 14.29.11

Whilst the images perfectly replicate popular visual culture on Instagram, the captions signal that this is a satirical comment on those images. The captions are either based on the typical captions that might be posted along with the images by serious users, or they comment on the effect taking these images have on the lifestyle of the serious poster. For example, the first image where the caption details the steps to taking a perfect picture, but by the time you take a perfect picture of your coffee it has likely gone cold. But while most of the audience would recognise the humour and find these images amusing, most of us probably make these sorts of images. One reason is because we know if we put enough hashtags in our posts, that they will be seen by more people and therefore liked by more people. But the other reason is that we see these images as the only images worth posting, because alternative images might not get as many likes, despite the fact they may be more interesting. Perhaps this is a form of neoliberal power in play on Instagram, where the users are ‘free’ to post whatever they want, however this freedom is tied to the knowledge that they will probably only gain approval if they post images that align with the prescribed norm.

This account really questions the authenticity and originality of these mass produced images on Instagram. Can these images still possess a notion of individuality when they effectively based on the same template? The scholar Walter Benjamin wrote about photography when it was first developed and when the early discussions about whether photography is art were taking place. Benjamin didn’t consider it possible for photography to be an art form, because of the nature of the practice to produce multiple exact copies, meaning there would be no original. For Benjamin the original piece of artwork possesses an aura, which is in the individuality of the artefact and the fact that it is only in one space and time. Photography however has the capacity to produce many copies that can be viewed in any context, space or time. Therefore Benjamin considered photography to be devoid of aura and originality. When considering Benjamin’s ideology in the context of digital social media, these visual copies would be considered as devoid of aura, with no originality because they are just another version of the same material. As well as Walter Benjamin, Jean Baudrillard considers photography to produce copies, or as Baudrillard refers to them as: simulations. When considering these popular mass images seen on Instagram, Baudrillard would most likely consider them as holograms. Transparent and intangible, these images are holograms that represent a fantasy that people crave, but are unable to occupy physically. Despite the fact that both Baudrillard and Benjamin’s ideas appear to be very relevant for current discussions, we must acknowledge that they were writing in the early stages of photography. They were writing at a time when digital photography and therefore smartphone photography weren’t prominent in culture. Their discussions were aimed at the practice of analogue photography and therefore we can only assume that their opinion would be the same in relation to the digital practice.

Sociality Barbie is actually a good example for the research I wish to conduct, I can take inspiration from this account and the way it makes a critical comment on the content of Instagram. In particular, the way it keeps an element of anonymity up to the end of posting, after which the creator posts an explanation behind why the account was created. This provides the user with an incite as to what the project is and what it aims to do, which is make satirical references. This explanation effectively debriefs the audience, who can then go back through the images on the account and perceive through critical eyes. I can also use this approach for my research project, retaining a sense of anonymity and mystery to the end, after which I will post an explanation behind the account and that it was for research purposes.

Interpreting Visual Materials

In order to be able to begin to interpret the visual materials that my data collection would generate, I needed to establish how I would go about making meaning from them. Gillian Rose’s book ‘Visual Methodologies: An Introduction to the Interpretation of Visual Materials’, provides an introduction into the methodologies that I could potentially use for interpreting the visual materials in my research project.

The title starts with an introduction into considering how visual methodology can be critical. Rose explains that culture is an extremely complex concept, made up of social processes, social identities and social change. Visuality refers to the way individuals see the world, what they see, how they see and what is allowed to be seen by them. In Western society, visuality is an important part of life and this is seen through an increasing saturation of visual content. This apparent centrality of visual content to culture is known as ocularcentrism, a term introduced by Martin Jay in 1993. In pre-modern times, visual images were not very important simply because there were not many of them, the move into modernity increased the production of images. Many scholars discuss why images have become prevalent in culture, from their use in science to their prominent role in mass tourism. In post-modernity the visual is still important, however the relationship between between seeing and believing is constantly being questioned. However post-modernity can still be viewed as ocularcentric because the scale that individuals engage with constructed visual experiences. Jean Baudrillard proposes that in post-modernity it is no possible to identify what it real and what isn’t, we now live in a world that is full of simulations and nothing is original anymore. Donna Haraway argues that this ocularcentric culture is only available to few individuals and institutions, particularly those with histories in military, capitalism, colonialism and male supremacy. In addition to this, there is also the concept of dominant visuality, which denies alternative ways of seeing the world other than those prescribed by the norm.

Visual images are not often seen without accompanying spoken or written text, but the ways of conveying meaning in visual images are different from that in textual material. John Berger wrote and illustrated a book known as Ways of Seeing in which he proposed that we never just consider the thing depicted, but rather we look at the relation between things and ourselves. Just as text evokes meaning when read, an image evokes meaning by being looked at; this looking at an image also involves thinking how the image positions you as a viewer in relation to it. However it is important to consider that not all audiences would respond in the same way to the same image. In order to begin looking at images critically, Rose suggests three rules:

  1. Take images seriously, despite post-modernity suggesting images don’t necessarily depict the ‘real’
  2. Think about the social conditions and effects of the visual object(s)
  3. Consider you own way of looking at the images (as a researcher or viewer)

The image itself has three sites of meaning: the site of the production of the image, the site of the actual image and the site in which it is seen by an audience. In additional to this the image is also shaped by the apparatus used to create it, the compositional element of its appearance and the range of social, economic an political processes that surround the image. The creator of the image should also be addressed; auteur theory suggests that the most important aspect in understanding a visual image is considering what its maker intended to show, however Roland Barthes argued a case for the apparent death of the author. Nevertheless, the viewer is also an important concept in considering the way an image is interpreted, Rose introduced the term audiencing to refer to the process through which an image makes meaning when it is viewed.  The particular audience member will have an effect on the way an image is read and the space in which the image is being viewed also has an influence on meaning making.

In terms of sourcing visual material to study, Rose suggests the researcher should consider the precise format of the visual material, how much material beyond the object the researcher would need. In addition to this, when studying painting as a visual material, the researcher should decide whether seeing the original in situ is necessary, or whether a reproduction would be enough. Of course when you consider Walter Benjamin on the idea of viewing a reproduction, he would argue that seeing the original is the only way of truly seeing the painting in question, because in viewing the original the researcher would experience the true aura of the art. Regardless of whether the researcher chooses to view the original or a reproduction, Rose proposes that the researcher should become an expert on the type of images they want to examine, in order to be able to interpret them fully.

Once the material is gathered, the researcher should consider what approach they are to going to take in order to interpret them. The options Rose covers in this book include content analysis, semiology, psychoanalysis and discourse analysis (in which she splits into two: discourse analysis I and discourse analysis II). Content analysis involves focusing on the compositional modality of the image, it does not consider the production of the image of the audience reception. It is based on counting the frequency of certain visual elements in a defined set of images and analysing the resultant numbers. In order to count the visual elements the researcher needs to create codes, which are a set of descriptive labels or categories that the researcher can then attach to the image. These categories should be obvious and logical enough that if another researcher created a set of codes, they should be very similar. However Lutz and Collins argue that the reducing the image to a series of codes, results in a reduction of the meaning itself. In addition to this, content analysis has the tendency of considering the content that occurs more frequently as more important than the content that occurs rarely.

Semiology involves the study of signs, which according to semiologists, make up all of visual culture. However some scholars discuss that if all knowledge depends on signs, there is a risk that these signs may be misinterpreted. There are a number of terms involved in semiology: the sign refers to the visual element, the signified is the concept or object and the signifier is the sound or image attached to the signified. The referent is the actual object in the world to which to sign relates, an icon means the signifier represents the signified by having a likeness to it, index refers to the inherent relationship between signifier and signified and symbol means a conventionalised but loose relation between both. Denotive refers to a sign that is easily read, connotive means the signs have a higher level of meaning, diegesis is the sum of the denotive meanings and anchorage is the text provided in relation to the sign. Metonymic is a sign that is associated with or represents something else and synecdochal is either a part representing a whole or a whole representing a part. Lastly Barthes referred to a concept of mythology, in which he proposes that meaning is defined not by the content but by the form in which is comes. Interpreting these signs are all about considering the preferred meaning and the preferred reading in relation to the audience. Williamson proposes that signs create a space in which we can create ourselves, however this identity is not freely created but regulated by the environment the signs construct. Semiology has been criticised, as the interpretation one researcher makes of an image, might not be the same as the interpretation of another researcher. In addition to this, there are concerns about semiology and reflexivity, if the researcher fails to acknowledge their subject position in relation to the preferred meaning and the intended audience.

Psychoanalysis was fronted by the scholar Sigmund Freud and involves considering human subjectivity, sexuality and the unconscious. This relates to visual material as the term scopophilia refers to having a pleasure in looking. Pyschoanalysis does not have a code of methodological conduct and is only concerned with subjectivity; referring to the characteristics of the viewer and not their identity. This concept involves considering ideas including the unconscious, voyeurism (which refers to a way of seeing that distances and objectifies what it looks at) and the imaginary (a field of interrelations between subject and other people/objects). Like in semiology there are concerns in relation to psychoanalysis and reflexivity, as psychoanalysis argues that full awareness and knowledge of the self is impossible.

In considering discourse analysis, Rose splits this concept into two parts: discourse analysis I and discourse analysis II. The term discourse is understood as a particular framework of knowledge about the world, which shapes the world we look at as individuals and way we act as a result. Discourse produces subjects and subjectivity is constructed through particular processes, institutes and practices define what it is to be a normal (and abnormal) human. The theorist Michel Foucault wrote a lot on discourse analysis and related it to the theory of power, those with power shape know and the ways of thinking. Discourse is powerful because it shapes the way subjects think, not by oppressing them but by shaping them through the operation of discourse. Rose proposes discourse analysis I as an approach that pays more attention to the notion of discourse expressed through images and text, whereas discourse analysis II focuses more on the practices of institutions. However Rose draws on Rosalind Gill by stating that all forms of discourse is organized to make itself persuasive. In procuring sources for discourse analysis, Tonkiss proposes that quality is not necessarily a priority, rather that the quality of the visual material is important. Discourse analysis I involves a critical reflection on your own research practice, for example a critique of the structure of academia itself in prioritising the study of certain cultures and othering the others. Discourse analysis II involves a critique on the apparatus and technologies of the institution for example a gallery or museum. Galleries and museums were characteristically visited by the middle class because only they had access to an education that included the study of art. In addition to this, the layout of the art gallery in providing singular pieces, produces viewers as contemplative eyes, and the art as objects to be contemplated, as a spectacle. It is also important to consider in what format are visual sources selected, as an archive from a museum or gallery is a product of what the dominant institutions identified as important.

There are other methods to consider visual material including ethnography, Rose also proposes that the researcher can combine methods to conduct a more detailed analysis and therefore produce new forms of knowledge. It has been really beneficial to consider the different methods of analysis available when using visual materials. Content analysis and semiology wouldn’t be very suitable as I feel it would produce a quantitative form of qualitative analysis, which although it might be useful when dealing with large numbers of data, I feel that it is too detached for the research I want to carry out, which focuses on the formation of identity. Psychoanalysis would also not be suitable as it doesn’t consider the concept of reflexivity to be possible, as I am going to be carrying out auto-ethnographic study, I will need to be an incredibly reflexive researcher, constantly reflecting on the data production, collection and analysis in relation to my own subject position. Discourse analysis would be the most relevant to my research project, as I can examine the evidence of discourse in the images and reflect on how particular discourses shape the formation of identity.

Iphoneography as an emergent art world

This paper was written by Megan Halpern and Lee Humphreys, it examines the use of iPhones by those who identify as artists and the construction of an artistic community revolving around the term ‘iPhoneography’. I’m interested in what this paper defines as artistic activity, and whether social media and cameraphone users can actually be considered as practising artists. I’ve taken quotes and sections from the paper and reflected on them in relation to my own research project.

 

In 2010, the most popular camera among Flickr users was the iPhone 3G

This is a really interesting statistic, as for this paper it was able to define that a large number of users operating on a photography-based media platform were actually using a smartphone. As the iPhone was the leading smartphone when these first-generation social media sites were the most used, it makes sense that a community was built around using this model of phone. It would be interesting for me in my research project, to try and find out how many Instagram users are still participating in this identification with the iPhone brand. Whether the user is engaging with the iPhoneography community, or whether they are simply pointing out that they love the iPhone as a brand. As Instagram is an application that was designed for the smartphone, I don’t feel that my research needs to prove that the majority of users are using a phone over a digital camera, however the fact that they are using a phone to make the images, needs to be acknowledged and researched.

 

The lens of remediation helps to place iphoneography in historical and cultural context by drawing attention to the conversation between iphoneography and photography, as well as other visual media

The theory of remediation addresses the idea of technology progressing through reform. This paper draws on Bolter and Grusin and their theory of immediacy and hypermediacy as the twin logics behind remediation. However this paper appears to skim over the definition of remediation and what place it actually has in this article, so I will be researching Bolter and Grusin further to make sure I have a clear grasp of how this article wants to talk about remediation, as I feel it may be relevant for my own research project.

 

 The massification of photo taking  and making that technology has facilitated over the last 100 years have been noted by many scholars (e.g Benjamin 1972, Bourdieau 1996, Sontag 2001)

Benjamin defines aura as that which evokes artwork’s (or natural object’s) uniqueness and permanence.

Bolter et al. (2006) re-examine Benjamin’s concept of aura in the context of virtual and mixed reality.

Aura is not dead with reproducible visual media, the claim, but rather, is constantly lost and found again, existing in a permanent state of crisis.

I picked out a few quotes from the section titled ‘Theorizing photography’, although it appears to be less about theorizing photography as a practice, but rather theorizing mass produced, social photography and redefining it in relation to Walter Benjamin’s theory of aura, in order to be able to establish this type of photography as art. Benjamin’s theory of aura is a classic debate, over whether photography can be considered as possessing a quality of aura and originality when the medium itself does not base the production of visual material on one single copy. Whereas painting, sculpture and other forms of art always produce an original, singular piece, photography, even analogue photography always allows for an exact copy of the proclaimed original. What is interesting about the use of Benjamin in this paper, is the fact that they include another writers take on Benjamin in relation to digital media. The idea that aura is constantly being lost and found in digital media is an interesting take on the theory in a contemporary context. Walter Benjamin, although still appearing to be highly accurate for the contemporary world, was writing when photography was an early invention. Therefore in order to use Walter Benjmain in relation to current, contemporary research, the researcher must acknowledge that Benjamin’s work was written for a different time period and find a way to situate this theory in relation to the current material.

 

The cultural significance of photography has not been dictated by technological advancements alone, but also shaped by evolving social practice (Wells 2000). Bourdieu’s study of photography revealed photography as a process of “collective identity formation”

Liz Wells is one of the key writers on photography and I will definitely be considering her work in relation to my own research project, when it comes to theorizing photography and the practice of social photography in my own research project.  However I haven’t yet researched Bordieu’s writing on social photography, and this quote about photography as a process of collective identity formation is very relevant to what I want to research; my own project will be engaging with how users express identity using the social media application Instagram.

 

Becker defines an art world as the patterns of collective activity surrounding the production of a specific form of artistic expression

Defining art in relation to a social practice was important for this research paper as it allowed them to consider the everyday user of Flickr and the iPhone as a practising artist, because a collective group of users engage in an identifiable way. This definition of an art world could be relevant for my own research project, if I want to consider Instagram users as practising artists.

 

To examine the phenomenon of iphoneography, we chose an interpretive qualitative methodological approach because we were interested in exploring the social practices of iphoneography as an art world

In total, we conducted 20 in-depth semi-structured interviews with those who self-identify as iphoneographers

These quotes were from the ‘Case and approach’ section where the writers define the process and approach behind their research. They explain recruiting research subjects through the website Pixels and by finding Hipstamatic iPhone users from Flickr. The participants from the different places allowed a balance of perspectives. Through a period of six months and research that consisted of interviews and participant observation. The researchers explained that their approach was interpretive, which means that they relied on the fact that the interpretation they made of the subject’s interview answers and the activity they observed were accurate, and what the subject wanted to convey. This is not the approach I have proposed for my own research project, I won’t be conducting interviews but instead combining auto-ethnographic and ethnographic observation of Instagram activity. Therefore my research will be somewhat interpretive, because I will be reflecting on my own activity and attempting to identify choices made by others.

 

The third key practice of iphoneography is the manipulation of photographs through apps or what we call the presence and visualization of the artist’s hand in the iphoneographic image

For these informants, apps literally re-introduce the hand of the artist, thus re-creating aura within their iphoneography

The reintroduction of the artist’s hand in the creation of the image provides an interesting counter to Benjamin’s idea of aura, connecting to Bolter’s theory of aura being lost and found again in digital media. The hand is a concept that keeps cropping up in writing about cameraphone photography, because of the tactile nature of the device, it will definitely be a concept I will draw upon in my own research project, both as a way to research the material and as evidence of the user in the creation of artistic material.

 

we found that opinions on what it meant to be accepted as a legitimate art form also varied. For some, finding a specific aesthetic and set of rules through selective and careful curation, both online and in brick-and-mortar exhibitions would help build an art world similar to visual art worlds already established. For others, legitimation meant thinking about visual art in new ways.

There is a purpose behind this paper, although this is a research project into whether iPhoneography could be considered as art, the writers are really trying to convey that iPhoneography should be accepted as a legitimate art form. However despite this, the voice of the researchers are never seen in their writing, there is this detached sense. This could be because the paper is co-authored therefore the researcher’s can’t really use the word ‘I’ without establishing which researcher is ‘talking’ at one particular time. However in my research project, this is an aspect I will benefit from, this will be my own singular research, therefore I will have the opportunity to use my own voice. I have maximised my opportunity to express my voice as a researcher by also using myself as a subject. This paper feels a bit too clinical for me, when they are effectively describing a highly emotional, subjective concept, which is the creation of art. The concept of art is formed, discussed and reformed with the different movements and to act as if, are a researcher, you are unaffected by the existence and presence of art, seems somewhat ridiculous.

 

Overall this paper has been really beneficial for me to read, in terms of identifying theories I need to research further, writers on photography that I should engage with from a cultural theory perspective and also in considering the approach taken by the researchers. Although I personally feel that this paper seems to be too clinical and detached when describing a highly emotional practice, it does engage with some really interesting and relevant theories. The use of Benjamin and aura is situated and legitimised in this contemporary context by using another writer who has built on this concept of aura in relation to current photographic practices. The concept of the hand, as I identified earlier, is one that is being built upon by many researchers considering the smartphone/tablet as a tool for their subjects and also a tool for their own research. I will need to carefully consider the role of the smartphone in my research concept and also in relation to how I actually carry out my research.

 

A Snapshot of Social Media: Camera Phone Practices

This short piece of text was cowritten by Larissa Hjorth and Natalie Hendry, it is only a couple of pages long including the references, but it provides a really good starting point and summary of the relationship between the camera phone and social media. The ideas raised in this short piece of text, will both give me ideas to research and think about in relation to my research project and I can also use this reference section to identify other texts for me to read. In this blog post I have identified important quotes and ideas from this text and explored how I can relate them to my research project.

 

Contemporary social media just compress and spread ideas in a more accelerated and data heavy manner

Instagram as a social media encourages succinct visual expression, posting a singular image or video and an accompanying caption. The posting has become more free with recent updates and the development of accompanying apps which allow explorative video editing and the collage of multiple images. I have before likened Instagram to the dynamic of a postcard, particularly when the user has posted an image from the travel genre. However the digital form of this postcard dramatically changes the speed at which the material is received by the intended viewer, where a postcard might take days or weeks if the post is slow, with a sufficient internet connection an Instagram post can be made and uploaded within seconds. It is the speed of photography that has changed the nature of the practice and has encouraged some practitioners to revert to the slower process of analogue photography. Instagram has acknowledged this retro revival of the analogue image in the development of the app by offering a set of editing filters that apply a particular aesthetic to the image.

 

second generation camera phone apps can be understood in terms of “emplaced” visuality. Emplaced visuality puts a theory of movement at the center of our understanding of contemporary media practice.

This is where Larissa Hjorth has focused on her own ideas from a separate paper, which she wrote with other author Sarah Pink. First generation social media would resemble platforms such as Flickr, that were designed for users who had digital compact, bridge or SLR cameras, whereas second generation social media, such as Instagram are designed for users who take images using their camera phone. Rather than the social media being hosted on a website like Flickr and redeveloped to become an app, Instagram was designed to be an application for a smartphone before then being redesigned to be accessed from a laptop. Emplaced reality is closely linked to the portable nature of the smartphone/cameraphone, whereas photographers with cameras would go out to shoot and then come back home to edit and share, cameraphone users have the ability to shoot, edit and share in that one device. The fact that the device can connect to the Internet in almost any location, means that places that were previously dedicated to banal rituals of waiting such as travelling, have been changed to represent explorative periods of creativity.

 

Just as young people collaged fanzines or decorated their bedrooms with posters, they also use platforms like Tumblr to creatively visualize and “circulate everything”: their intimate, consumer and aesthetic desires; personal politics; and endless animated gifs

Although limiting, the bedroom wall metaphor points to the ways that young people predominately “renovate” their spaces, and, in turn, their identities and relationships

The bedroom wall metaphor is a really interesting idea to describe how young people creatively express their identity, it really reminds of the video game Life Is Strange, where the main character Max takes a self portrait of herself in front of her wall of photographs.

maxresdefault

The ritualistic idea of the college or university student creatively decorating their room to express their identity is recognisable in popular Western culture. Despite the fact that the occupant knows their occupancy of this space will only be temporary, this may have been the first chance they have full control to express their personality in a space that they effectively own for the duration of their stay. Social media and the user’s profile/newsfeed represents this chance at freedom, the platform and their profile is their four walls, which they experiment with in order to express their personality to those who choose to visit/those who are allowed to see. However despite the physical constraints of a bedroom meaning that only a few people could see the decoration of the bedroom at a time, social media can be accessed and seen by a global audiences of millions simultaneously.

 

The histories of young people as a population under surveillance are remediated through camera phone practices as new anxieties and moral panics are revealed

Photos exchanged through Snapchat, Instagram and Kik convey a sense of being with each other and reinforce shared emotional experience across time and space

These statements both ask and answer a similar question, it is undeniable that with the increased focus on treating mental health that there has been a massive increase in the diagnosis of such conditions, especially in young people. The number of 15-16 year olds with depression has nearly doubled between the 1980s and the 2000s according to mental health statistics from youngminds.org. However a rise in awareness of mental health is not the predominate reason why so many young people are now being diagnosed, it is this age of the smartphone and surveillance that makes many feel like they are under pressure to fulfil unrealistic expectations. Selfies can be considered as a narcissism that has developed as a response to increased insecurity about body image, as young people feel encouraged to look and act much older than their age, with resultant risk of minors being sexualised.

13-year-olds-now-vs-me-when-i-was-13-memes-main

However for every young person that is feeling this sense of moral panic, social media also appears to provide a link to other people feeling the same, hence the creation of memes. People share their moral panics on social media in order to get a response, which can support them and tell them that are not alone. However equally this offering of vulnerability could become a target for Internet users that thrive on making hostile, personal attacks on other users, known as trolls.

 

As Daniel Palmer notes in his study on iPhone photography, cameras have colonized the mobile phone over the past decade. Nokia has reportedly put more cameras into people’s hands the in the whole previous history of photography

This is statistic that explains the changing nature of photography completely, despite a number of professionals still using top level SLR cameras in their work, the majority of photographers in this age are using smartphones to take pictures. The mobile phone industry have recognised this want for better cameras and developed phones that often have better camera than some compact digital cameras. In addition to this, the front camera has continued to develop in order to allow people to take self portraits or ‘selfies’, helped along by add on inventions such as the selfie stick. It is the smartphone/cameraphone that is the tool behind the increase and also the change of social photography in the digital era, as it collapses and combines the photography, editing and sharing in one portable device.

 

This piece of text despite the shorter length has given me a great starting point and encouraged me to consider other ideas to research in relation to my research. The bedroom wall metaphor is a concept that I feel is so relevant, as it describes the nature of creativity and the relationship between creativity, identity and self expression in a way that people can really understand. However I feel that this metaphor might only be relatable to the Western population, where moving out and going to university or college is central cultural concept. If I am going to use concepts that relate to Western culture, I need to begin thinking about shaping my research to Western culture as well. My position as a young, white, Western individual means that I can understand this example in relation to my own creativity and self expression, therefore I will be able to supplement this research idea with my own experience. However I have to consider that if I narrow my project down to engage with Western users of Instagram, I am excluding other subjects which have been traditionally othered by academia.

Post-Photography Assignment Brief

The aim of this module is to enable students to show the transition from a “traditional” photographic supplier to an informed “post-photographic” storyteller.

Start by considering Fred Ritchin’s comment from After Photography;

‘In the digital environment a new kind of photograph emerges, neither mirror nor window but a mosaic. It allows for multiple pathways leading to new avenues of exploration – a hypertext. Like Alice’s mirror, the hypertext photograph can lead to the other side, whether to explore a social situation or to create an image poem. The photograph is no longer a tangible object, a rectangle resembling a painting, but an ephemeral image made of tiles.’

Was he saying that digital images are now all ‘Simulacra’ in the manner that Baudrillard interprets their connection to reality?

Photographs have always been half-truths, so can we use that to our advantage in creating visual poems?

Through a set of 10-15 photographic pieces* you should examine a journey inspired by truth or fiction. This could be an epic adventure like the Life of Pi or the distance from your fingers to the keyboard.

Your images should provoke the reader to interrogate their meaning. The images could be accompanied by text or they could become a pathway through to another screen. The final work should take the audience on a journey, one that leaves them compelled to ask questions about your presented virtual reality.

You are expected to experiment with different approaches and challenge the boundaries of visual photographic expression.

Useful reference material might come in the form of images from social media, magazines, blogs, films, books, music, advertising in all its forms, the family photo album and other practitioners.

Your research (included within your blog) should detail the development of your ideas, and your practice as well as any shifts in the direction of the project. The blog should include weekly reflections (approximately 100-200 words in length) throughout the duration of the module.

*A “photographic piece” refers to either a single photographic image or collection thereof (in the form of a montage or diptych, triptych etc).

 

Initial Thoughts:

The key element to this brief is to try and embrace the concept of post-photography, changing from a traditional photographer, to a post photographer. The brief draws on the ideas of Fred Ritchin in relation to post-photography, however I believe that the lecture material will continue to develop and build on this concept. Fred Ritchin comments on how the digital age has changed the traditional analogue practice of photography. With advanced technology, which is more user-friendly, there are many more photographers now than there was when only analogue was available. In addition to digital cameras, the camera phone has become such a prominent element in daily life and the practice of photography.

The term photography now covers such a vast range of equipment, purposes and outcomes and there is much debate about what the photograph is anymore. In the context of the module Phonar (Photography and Narrative) we explored the idea of the photograph representing this analogue creation, using the term image to define an outcome that was created using digital technology. This separation between photograph and image helped us better define what practice we were considering. However the creation of the photograph is not the end point, traditionally photographs could be displayed in various different physical ways, from galleries to newspapers. This complicates the idea of a separation between photograph and image, because a photograph that has been made with analogue technology, could then be made digital through processes such as the scanning and uploading of a negative or print. In addition to this, the original form of the photograph could be changed once in a digital context, with the advanced and extended editing capabilities available from digital technology. Although assigning different terms can help to identify different types and approaches to photography, it is extremely hard to simplify a process that keeps growing, developing and intersecting.

My initial idea of what a post-photographer is, stems from an introduction to what a post-digital publication could be, which I was introduced to on the module: Open and Social Media. A post-digital publication is an outcome that considers the physical and digital technology available and chooses a process and practice that is suitable for the content the publication engages with. This choice doesn’t necessarily have to be exclusive to the physical or the digital, it could be a hybrid of both or take different forms in a physical/digital context. The key element is to acknowledge all processes and not be distracted by the revolutionary nature of developing digital technology, using it just because it is new. Post-digital isn’t necessarily a retro-rejection of digital technology, but a retrieval of methods that might have been forgotten or overshadowed by the digital age. Therefore I my idea of a post-photographer, is one who considers each and everyone of the different types of photography being practiced in the world and choose which approach suits the subject matter you want to represent. Just like the post-digital publication, the post-photographer doesn’t necessarily have to be exclusive to one photographic process, as some of the most interesting projects have engaged with a notion of hybridity. Or they have acknowledged that the form of their photographic project might need to change to be viewed effectively in a physical/digital context. I believe that the key concept of the post-photographer is the ability to understand the motives, purposes and effects behind each method of photography and be able to reflect and comment on this in their own work.

I expect my definition of the post-photographer to develop throughout the module and as the brief states, I will be making weekly reflections on the content that is explored and how this changes my idea of what post-photography is and what my response to this brief could be.

Paul Virilio – Open Sky

Paul Virilio’s Open Sky is a book that was referred to me by David Moore, who recommended I read it to explore further ideas associated with the digital world and technologic processes. The fact that Virilio comes from a background of philosophy would add more depth to my research however I must take into account that it might have the capacity to be speculative as opposed to making a point founded through research. The notes and my reflection on this title can be seen below:

Introduction

  • Concerned with the speed of the ‘real-time’ transmission tools
  • However we should be concerned about the hole in the ozone layer
  • ‘Our sky is vanishing’
  • We need to shift our sights upwards, and consider space-time matter
  • Conception of the world is drawn through perception
  • Without a horizon there is no reality

Part One

The Third Interval

  • Acceleration of communication
  • We are the beneficiaries but also the unwitting victims
  • Technology eradicates duration
  • Mass revolution changing real space to real time
  • Notions of atopia and utopia and teletopia
  • Meeting at a distance, being telepresent
  • Optoelectrics, facility of the body being transferred one by one to machines
  • Urbanisation of real time is transferring activity into interfaces
  • Transmission revolution means speed and instantaneous communication
  • However the interval of the light must be considered
  • Real-time technology bypasses time (duration) space (extension) and light (limit-speed)
  • Teleoperator (human-robot interface) televiewer (activity is not spatial but temporal)
  • Interactivity informs us of a remote reality to the detriment of our apprehension of the real
  • Debate is not global versus local or transnational versus national – it is now a temporal switch to an existence where no one has any control
  • A journey without trajectory is fundamentally uncontrollable
  • Increasingly partaking in remote interrelationships
  • Paradoxes of acceleration ‘distant’ takes away from the near
  • Teletopical city housing terminal citizens
  • At the end of the century the planet will be reduced to nothing by teletechnologies of generalised activity

The Perspective of Real Time

  • Unnoticed phenomenon of world’s dimensions – dromosphere (dromos: race, running)
  • Contamination, world has been gradually reduced to nothing by the digital tools
  • Transparent horizon not an apparent horizon, transparent is the product of the optical (optoelectric and acoustic)
  • Close perception between collective practices of communication telecommunication
  • Charles Peguy ‘there is no history, but only a public duration’
  • Objectivity and subjectivity but not trajectivity
  • Between subjective and objective there is no room for the trajective
  • The end of the outside world, forgetting spatial exteriority for temporal exteriority
  • Real-time image no longer offers concrete/explicit information, it offers discrete/implicit information
  • Square horizon of the screen, the teleportical society is constructed around the ‘window’ and the teleport
  • Classic photograph is no more than a ‘freeze frame’
  • Is punctum vanishing from perspective
  • Surface of a negative freezes the time of representation of movement
  • Real-time perspective is video
  • Experience splits open to become a ‘fractional’ dimension
  • Screen has geometric and optical properties that suggest a window or the frame of a painting
  • Constitution of videoscopic information depends on the acceleration of the frames
  • Hegemonic influence of technological culture is spreading and taking over
  • Void (the void of quick) depends on the interface of instantaneous transmission
  • Dromospheric pollution attacks liveliness of subject, mobility of the object by atrophying (wasting away) the journey so it becomes needless

Optics on a Grand Scale

  • Passive objects/small scale optics (glass, water, air) active optics/large scale optics (disregarding notion of horizon)
  • Virtual reality provoked ‘adaptive optics’
  • Trans-appearance (transparent, transient appearance)
  • Distance has given way to notions of power, endless transmitting power
  • Problems with ‘signal digitisation’ representation of tangible reality
  • Digital/virtual dismantles the necessary conditions for sensory experience

 

Part Two

The Law of Proximity

  • Technological reductionism is spreading through communication
  • New electromagnetic proximity about which we know little about
  • Beginnings of third revolution, the transmission revolution as a result of electromagnetic processes
  • ‘Law of proximity’ interval of space type, interval of time type, interval of light type
  • Electromagnetic proximity is outstripping mechanical proximity
  • Less is more, to what extent? If it is a completely virtual representation, an image of an image
  • Capacity for instantaneous action
  • Key notion of (photography, radio and TV) signal input and output have replaced the actions of the humans to an extent
  • Contrary to traditional proximity, electromagnetic proximity is not spatial, more temporal

Grey Ecology

  • The word nature is changed and replaced by a new definition in the digital world, we are confronted with media ecology
  • The nature of our new habitat can’t be determined until we decide what our relationship is with this new environment
  • It appears there is a death of geography in this land, the distance between us is both lessened and increased at the same time
  • We seek relief in virtual reality, a different dimension which exists in the media ecology

Continental Drift

  • In the digital world, time and space are not relative
  • The centre of this world is nowhere but the circumference is everywhere
  • We are seeing an emerging ‘business tourism’
  • Concept of distance is yielding to the concept of duration
  • The infosphere will rule tomorrow’s biosphere

 

Part Three

Eye Lust

  • Is there any photography left, if we characterise it as this ‘freeze frame’
  • We still need to determine the ethics for contemporary perception
  • Perceptual disorder, we can’t rely on the image to be objective, status of eye witness is lost
  • Methods of algorithmic photography could be referred to as visual reconstruction, with the data being potential image energy
  • Is there a ‘right to blindness’, for the individual to choose not to be confronted with all of the imagery in the digital age
  • The strategic value of visual displays has been recognised by many authoritative individuals
  • Concept of geopolitics is being replaced with iconopolitics in which the image dominates

From Sexual Perversion to Sexual Diversion

  • With cyber sex, it is a process of disintegration, built on a mutual rejection
  • Technologic proximity allows the individual to be emotionally close but not physically close, to avoid the risk of contamination
  • What originated as a vital process of copulation, has changed and been incorporated into the digital world as a practice of convenience
  • Processes of love are now complex diversions, no longer an ‘animal’ impulse but mechanical, technological

Escape Velocity

  • There is an object, the subject and the path is the distance between them
  • The path is the means to get the subject to their specific objective
  • Scientific discoveries characterise our progression, the constant need to contextualise ourselves in our universe, technology facilitates our individual processes of contextualisation
  • The concept of trajectory has replaced the notion of geography
  • In cyber space we are performing, not living and experiencing

 

Reflection:

This book, although really quite hard to read is brilliant at introducing new ideas to the discussion of digital technology. As Walter Benjamin originally discussed in relation to reproduction, in the digital world the concept of proximity is completely distorted, an individual can be closer to, but distanced from one another at the same time. Whilst their is conceptual, emotional closeness, the actual distance between individuals can be vast. Two individuals could be in the same physical proximity, but by engaging with technology they can be emotionally distant. These concepts relate to the idea of online communication, where virtual reality and convenient communication alters the way individuals connect to each other. As I have also researched, the effect of technology is to inhibit the emotions of the user, causing unnatural and perhaps asocial behaviour. The notion that society is defined by the ‘frame’ and the screen is an idea shared by many other practitioners and is definitely something I can pursue in my creative process. Perhaps in order to experiment I need to break out of the frame, or in order to make a statement I could experiment by restricting my work into this rectangular shape. In addition to this I must recognise that the frame itself is actually changing, applications and social media platforms such as Instagram have changed the frame from a rectangle to a square in the digital environment. This creative decision was most likely made to reference the Polaroid picture which was a defining feature of the relationship between photography and social activity. Virilio constantly references that the digital world has no space-time dimensions, there is no physical presence in this world and this alters the way that we react and interact with it and other people. Here the image has no physical weight, it is constantly being transformed, constructed and deconstructed wherever necessary. If we take this concept and apply it to a portrait, we can conclude that an individual’s identity is being constructed and deconstructed at the convenience of others. In my project I am aiming to investigate how the identity and the representation of the individual changes in digital communication, therefore I must consider how the portrait fits in this equation. In the digital world, the image of the individual is one of the predominately aspects of identity, as the individual themselves can’t be there to physically represent itself. Researching this book has been extremely beneficial as it has introduced new ideas to my project, as well as confirming some of the concepts I had already engaged with. I will definitely be referring back to the ideas established throughout my creative process in order to produce the most appropriate and effective outcome.