The Coffee Cup Illustrations of @yoyoha

The Instagram account titled ‘yoyoha‘ is run by Josh Hara and involves a series of illustrations made on the back of a coffee cup. These illustrations are usually topical and focus on popular culture and the digital age, for example the quote from his Instagram profile: ‘Don’t forget to stop and Instagram the roses’. This account, whilst extremely creative and apparently positive, is also a critical commentary on society. However this critique appears to be a good natured attempt at reminding viewers how reliant they are on technology. In addition to this, Hara takes the typical Western activity of getting a coffee from a well known international coffee chain and uses it in a creative critical way, perhaps to also remind the viewers of how prominent capitalism and consumerism is in the daily rituals of our lives.

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Here Hara comments on the idea that technology is as central to our lives as the umbilical cord is to the baby in the womb, that we are completely dependant on it to be able to function. This perhaps tries to make the point that we should aim to loosen our dependancy on our technology and consider the other aspects of life.

Likewise in the image below, Hara comments on a similar sort of idea but specific to the mobile phone, the way that individuals can’t seem to leave the phone along. Many individuals are constantly checking on their phones, unable to live life without the distraction of notifications.

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In the image below Hara references the music video from the song Hot Line Bling from the artist Drake, in which he performed some unusual dance moves, which the whole Internet took joy in ridiculing. There were a multitude of memes and short videos mocking the music video. However this may have been Drake’s original plan, because as the song and music video went viral, it meant that a massive amount of people were aware of his music. Hara uses this viral phenomenon and shapes it to the concept of the coffee cup in this topical illustration.

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Continuing with the music theme, Hara uses lyrics from the popular Adele song Hello, to describe the feeling of seeing a mobile coffee order from the side. Here Hara again is using music from the socially renowned Adele and shaping it to make a comment on coffee culture, most specifically the involvement of the mobile phone to make orders. The helpless situation Hara describes in this image would most likely be referred to as a ‘third world problem’, which refers to the fact that many Western, affluent individuals don’t actually have to worry about the basic elements of survival and often take this for granted.

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Lastly Hara also uses the popularity of the musical icon Taylor Swift and her lyrics in this image to make a clever reference to coffee culture. Hara uses play on words to create a pun, using the ‘Tau’ from Taylor to create a word that sounds like the coffee ‘latte’. He has also changed the lyrics to relate to coffee, which further addresses the concept of coffee culture. However there may have been another reason why Hara changed the lyrics, as Taylor Swift has been trade marking many of her lyrics from her songs, making them unavailable for free use on the sale of other products. Perhaps what Hara is really referring to here, is the threat to his freedom of expression from Taylor Swift’s need to earn any and all money from what she perceives as her intellectual and creative money, despite the fact that she is extremely wealthy and perhaps wouldn’t necessarily benefit hugely from the additional money this trademarking would generate.

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I chose to research and look at the profile of Josh Hara (yoyoha) because it is a really good example of someone using Instagram and visual images creatively in order to make critical comments on topical concepts. Although Hara’s commentary on these different social phenomenons could be viewed as generally positive, he is still drawing awareness to concepts that many would perhaps take for granted. In addition to the illustrations, Hara also uses text creatively to contribute to the visual statements the images make. I can learn a lot from this account in how to make a creative visual statement and I hope to gain inspiration from the activity from this account in relation to my own research idea.

Tactile digital ethnography: Researching mobile media through the hand

This paper was written by Sarah Pink, Jolynna Sinanan, Larissa Hjorth and Heather Horst; all from RMIT University in Australia. This paper was particularly interesting as it identified the hand as a way to conceptualise and legitimise a research approach. But also to emphasise the presence and the role of the hand in the way that we, as subjects, engage with devices such as smartphones, tablets and any others that feature touch screens. I have identified particular quotes and sections from this paper that I feel are relevant and beneficial to my own research project.

 

Existing approaches to mobile technologies as material culture (e.g., Horst in press) as ambient, and as productive of forms of copresence and intimacy (e.g. Hjorth & Richardson, 2014) acknowledge the embodied nature of our relationships with these technologies.

However of most relevance to our interests here is the work of the phenomenological anthropologist, Ingold, who building on Merleau-Ponty’s approach, and critiquing the focus on the symbolic and cultural of linguistic research paradigms, has conceptualised the hand as an extension of the brain

…Moores has argued for a phenomenological approach to how people move online. He critiques the notion of “navigating” the Internet, and instead calls for attention to how we feel our ways through online environments

The section of theorizing the hand is almost the most substantial part of the paper, and is certainly where the writers draw on the most external references in order to legitimise this conceptualisation of the hand. They draw on the research of anthropologist, Ingold who proposes that the hand is an extension of the brain, this also compares to cultural theorists that have described mobile media technologies as an extension of identity. If I have find parallel between Ingold’s proposition of the hand and the concept of identity extending beyond the physical body, I could potentially propose that the hand is central in the construction of identity on Instagram, as it is the hand that carries out this process. This section gives me the most support when considering researching this area, I have identified that I need to research Horst, Hjorth, Richardson, Ingold, Merleau-Ponty and Moores in order to build my own take on the concepts that they engage with.

 

We also concentrated visually on the hands for ethical reasons: since we were researching privacy, we preserved participant’s own privacy by not video recording or photographing their faces.

This quote identifies how the researchers were able to carry out ethical research, as they did take photographs and video recordings of their subjects, which were used in the paper as a figure. The researchers preserved the privacy of the participants by not including their faces, which would mean they become recognisable. In addition to his however the image that was used in the paper does a very good job at preserving this privacy further, as despite the article describing the way the subject maintains intimacy with their family through the use of their tablet, the photograph just shows the tablet from a distance, without any social media open. There is nothing from the content that can be seen that would make the subjects easily identifiable, except perhaps the subjects themselves identifying their own hands, their table and perhaps their own specific layout of apps. There are names mentioned in the paper however, and as the paper includes the participant discussing their family situation and how they interact on social media, potentially these individuals might be found. Although the searcher probably wouldn’t know for sure that these would be the same people.

I also need to make sure that my research preserves the privacy of those who I am observing on Instagram, because they are not having an active role in my research, i.e. I am not interviewing them, rather observing their behaviour, activity and content on Instagram, in relation to my own as a subject. To take images from these accounts and them place them in my own research paper would be unethical, as I would not have obtained permission from the users to use their content in this way. Therefore I have identified that it would only be ethical to put my own visual content from my Instagram profile in my actual research paper, and discuss how this relates to other content from other users I have observed and researched.

 

In summary this paper has been really beneficial to me, in contributing to the concept of the hand in relation to mobile media and social practice. This paper demonstrates how the hand can be theorized and conceptualised as both the foundation of a cultural phenomenon and the tool supporting a specific research approach. I have identified that I can use the hand as both a research tool for my own research, and use the theory that this paper engages with the conceptualise the role of the Instagram in a cultural context. I still have lots of reading to do, to make sure I fully understand the way that the hand has been mentioned in previous research, and research that relates to other subjects. However this paper has been really beneficial to me, as the references point me towards other texts that are sure to provide me with this wider knowledge.

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.

 

Why Does Photography Exist?

This is an absolutely huge question to ask, because photography does not exist as one simple, uncomplicated practice. The camera and photography operates in many different contexts, including but limited to medicine, law and fashion. Photography is used to take images of crime scenes and these are relied upon  as evidence in order to determine what crime was committed and who is responsible. In fashion, photography is used to display the product in use and to make it as appealing to the viewer as possible. Eadward Muybridge used photography in a scientific context to prove that when a horse gallops, there is a moment when all four feet leave the ground.

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For my research project, I will be focusing on photography in a social context, examining the role of the practice for the everyday individual. But first I need to establish why the practice of photography actually exists in the first place, before it was absorbed into other disciplines and daily rituals. Andre Bazin, writing in 1990 has established an argument reasoning the existence of photography in ‘The Ontology of the Photographic Image’. Bazin identifies the the humans as a species are constantly focused on the preservation of life, particularly in the Ancient Egyptian Era. The predominate attempt at the preservation of life is to produce a representation of it, in order to avoid what Bazin calls ‘a second spiritual death’ (Bazin 1990: 6). This second spiritual death involves the creation of a lasting representation, so despite the physical body of the subject disappearing from the Earth, there is still a recognisable visual representation that remains as evidence that the subject has lived. This is where the practice of photography is relevant, because aside from the other art forms such as painting, sculpture and sketching, photography provides a highly realistic representation. According to Andre Bazin however, photography remains separate from the other art forms, because there is no visible evidence of the human in the creation of the image. In art you can see the brush strokes of the artist, in sculpture you can see whether the artist has shaped the material, but in photography the machine is solely responsible for the process. Bazin states the photography benefits from this absence of man, which means it can be considered as an objective practice.

With the help of Andre Bazin, I have been able to establish a reasoning as to why the practice of photography exists, however when reading ‘The Ontology of the Photographic Image’, I have identified some problematic areas. Most specifically Bazin identifying photography as an objective practice; this statement has some truth when considering photography in areas such as medicine or law, where the practice is heavily regulated and standardised in order to produce consistent, reliable visual material. However in a social context, there are no rules or regulations surrounding the practice of photography, the owner of the camera is relatively free to photograph what they want. There are ethical concerns surrounding photographing certain material, however the individual can choose whether or not to abide by these moral suggestions. The notion that a photograph tells the truth has partially framed the practice of social photography, because photography has been used to document the life and family of the individual. The viewers of these images believe the content, because it appears to be telling them a simple, uncomplicated message (for example, this person was standing in front of this monument) however the person producing the image still made decisions when framing the scene.

Despite this blog post appearing to ask an unanswerable question, using Andre Bazin’s ‘The Ontology of the Photographic Image’ has enabled me to explore why photography actually exists. Bazin’s concept of the second spiritual death is actually really interesting and certainly could explain the phenomenon of selfies, however the images made by the users on Instagram are not always of the self. Therefore there must be a reason behind this deviation of content, or perhaps I should be considering the representation of the self in a more abstract way.

 

References:

Bazin, A. (1960) ‘The Ontology of the Photographic Image’. Film Quarterly 13 (4) 4-9

Super Media – Charlie Beckett

I wanted to have a good understanding of media techniques along with my understanding of photojournalism as photojournalism itself is a form of media. I was aware that the whole book wouldn’t be necessarily as useful as a photography text however I wanted to research in the area of media to have a comprehensive and thorough understanding of the medium of reportage. My notes and evaluation can be seen below:

  • Networked journalism proposes there are advantages for taking the opportunity of collaboration – we can do more together than we can apart
  • Networked journalism is born out of opportunity and also out of need
  • The tools journalists are using are constantly expanding for example blogs allow anyone to publish and contribute and mobiles let anyone share what they witness
  • The natural state of media is two way and collaborative
  • Journalism becomes more open, transparent and flexible
  • Journalism shouldn’t be defined by who does it but by the actual content
  • Three stories convinced Beckett that journalism has changed: Danish cartoons, Africa and London Bombings
  • Media has the power to shape society and events so we need to care about the future of journalism
  • Journalists will always be different, you need to compare each journalist’s experience
  • Journalists are supposed to remain objective however more often than not they will have a partial view
  • The public tend to have an opinion of the media based on the last one they experienced
  • There’s an increase of free news media
  • The potential of journalism is greater however the quality needs to be maintained as it is under threat
  • Fragmentation can cause the quality to waiver
  • Sometimes the threat will come from commercial or political forces
  • Our interconnected world means we are reliant on information
  • Journalism can alter the course of events as well as narrate them
  • Media is also partial, sometimes there are instances where information is withheld by authorities
  • Journalism is changing for social, economic and technological reaons
  • Networked journalism includes citizens, interactivity, open sourcing, wikis, blogging and social networking
  • Likening media to the environment and suggesting it can become polluted – Roger Silvermoon
  • Print media is declining (a symptom of illness?)
  • Is the world of cybermedia going to be run by citizen journalism?
  • When our journey quickens it’s hard to find our feet and keep track
  • There are certain new phrases associated with new media
  • New technology and political liberalisation gives the public a greater role
  • Networked journalism = demand for journalism and social utility
  • Distinctions between amateur, producer, product, audience and participation are broken down and blurred
  • Networked journalism is the semantic divide between old media and new media
  • Tom Armitage introduced the term “Next Media”
  • Netroot: political activism on blog and social media (Jerome Armstrong 2002)
  • Global challenge to journalism is it’s ability to deal with complex narratives of terror and community
  • Media should be more diverse but it is under threat from being thin and fragmented
  • Media literacy is extremely important, the practitioners must be equipped for the task
  • People should be given the skills, tools to interact and produce critical journalism
  • All journalists must have a sense of responsibility and their rights including networked journalists, they must have a sense of objectivity and what truth is
  • Journalists don’t really have a choice, their work is likely to become networked
  • If everyone can realise the potential of digital news media then media could become “super” in nature
  • Journalism isn’t a safe career anymore, hundreds have lost their job
  • The introduction of technology and efficiency has changed the business model
  • This could be considered a revolution however revolutions historically don’t succeed
  • Polis (research into journalism and society at London School of Economics) different media markets are moving at different speeds
  • Not all changes are because of the technology, Lads mags grew rapidly then declined because of socio-economic change, they fell away because of online material
  • There is a parallel revolution, journalism is becoming cheaper because of mobile phones and video cameras – producers have cut their costs by cutting people
  • Traditional media are more sophisticated and can be made at a lower price due to technology
  • Technology produces platforms that are accessible to online viewers and readers
  • Journalism is now distributed through computers and smartphones
  • The rise of online journalism presents economical challenges to news media – Google and YouTube are the most powerful companies and also influential in journalism
  • Public interest has also shifted and conventional media has been slow to address this
  • Two approaches – to defend old media and to investigate the potential of new media
  • Need to understand old from new and be able to track changes
  • What is the degree at which journalism is operating online
  • There are 100 million blogs tracked by Technrati
  • Blogs versus Journalists – bloggers tend to be more opinionated and can engage through the media through comments
  • The difference between personal/journalist bloggers is becoming blurred
  • Estimated 6.6 billion people are online
  • Presence of hand held devices have increased
  • Largest media outlets now include Google and Disney
  • Wholly online news sites can range from academic sources like opendemocracy.net and some are built up of collated public information
  • People are still reading newspapers they aren’t obsolete, in 2006 sales were up but gradually TV began to take over
  • Mainstream media is typically on print or TV and has some support still as not everyone wants to watch the news on their phone
  • Radio has continued to flourish because the nature of it fits in with the modern lifestyle
  • Continuation of mainstream media is down to the skills and experience of it’s participators – Channel 4 News continues to thrive, content and quality is key
  • Main stream media audience is declining
  • Sometimes the audience isn’t transferring online, it is disappearing completely
  • Advertising has completely changed, it is invasive online and interferes with the online experience
  • Culture is loosing interest in conventional media – the audience gets news from ‘spoof’ programs such as Mock The Week
  • Young audiences are getting news from friends and social media – one third of all YouTubers are between 18 and 24 and Facebook/Twitter offers a sense of community
  • Revenue generation is harder online because the audience wants free information, this is similar for TV
  • Organisations like Sky use TV and Film to get customers in, the news channel alone doesn’t attract the audience
  • Fragmentation is a result of more choice in the digital and online world of media
  • More outlets don’t necessarily mean a better knowledge or service
  • Ethnic minorities statistically are the first to leave mainstream media (perhaps they feel they have been misrepresented)
  • Although the quantity of producers has increased, the diversity has not
  • Journalism is competitive, each trying to create a feeling of community
  • Because of the reduced cost of printing, newspapers are often given out for free
  • Journalism is always accused of lacking quality
  • Changes in media have social effects and this in turn shapes journalism
  • Suggests that journalism has been ‘dumbed down’ to appeal to the masses
  • Public services are in retreat, the budget cutes have put a squeeze on activity
  • Just taking journalism online is not the answer

Evaluation:

This book has been incredibly insightful and there are a number of comparisons that can be made between journalism and photojournalism in terms of the changing nature. Comparative to photojournalism, journalism has become collaborative in the digital age, Beckett introduces the term ‘networked journalism’ which is a term I definitely plan to reference in my research paper. The idea of working to maintain quality in media is a concept other writers have touched on such as Fred Ritchin therefore I can use his and Beckett’s ideology together to comment on this subject. The fact that the London bombings was another case study makes me consider using it in my research paper as a case study for the changing tools of professional photojournalism where the photographer reverted to the phone to take the images. I am also interested in the dualism between conventional media and social media as the relationship is challenging; where social media attracts a younger audience and appears to disseminate information effectively, there is the notion that conventional media contains objective content of a better quality because social media tends to be more subjective. This is definitely a comparison I want to address however it’s not important enough to feature in heavily in my research paper so I plan to dedicate an independent blog post to it. Overall this book has been really beneficial in terms of gaining knowledge in relation to media as a whole, not just photojournalism and it is evident that the some of the same complexities are present in photojournalism are also present in journalism. I will definitely be using the ideology from Beckett in my research paper and further in my blogging in association to citizen journalism and the apparent conflict between conventional media and social media.

 

Reference: Beckett, C. (2008) Supermedia: saving journalism so it can save the world. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing