processes

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As a follow up to my last post on comfort v. meaning in ritualized practices (didn't know that's what it was about? sorry.) I'd like to share these images. Webfair registration. Webfair lunch. Webfair display table. I wouldn't choose to take pictures at events. Personal or professional events. I feel like a camera is an encumbrance to my observation, my participation, my involvement, engagement, communication or analysis. In short, cameras are a pain in the ass unless they happen to be the focus of my activity. I've taken pictures at many of our events. Denise did, too; perhaps more. In ten years, I've never known what shots were needed, what quality was expected, what purpose would be served- but click I did. I even tried special film in my own SLR and paid for special processing in an attempt to get past the lighting problems (I hate flash- the way it looks in pictures as well as the intrusion it causes during an event.)

These images are from the last annual Webfair. Nice ones. I have lots of this crap- stuff that no one has seen, no one wants, no one chooses to be bothered with. Its absence changed nothing, and what's worse, putting it here improves nothing.

Well, unless this post has an effect. And sadly, I've hit a wall; writing words about this stuff drains me. Especially when the obvious is so damn clear. What are we selling to faculty if we're the ones to still take comfort in old business rituals like having a photographer at our functions?

What have we learned from Symposium if not that the community can fill our needs? This year the flickr pictures from community phones and cameras equal or surpass any need we might have. Plus, they're tagged and warehoused where people can see and use them. Using them can only help build our community. What words can I possibly write that paint a clearer picture? We don't need an event photographer. How's that?

Encourage the use of public photo spaces. Encourage tagging and develop a taxonomy. Maybe have two or three photophones and phone accounts to loan. Maybe have some clear directions on shooting, uploading, tagging, and subscribing to tags. Use some of our tagged images in publications. If we ever do high resolution four color glossy marketing pieces, we may have need for better images.

This either works or it doesn't, and we won't find out nestling in the bosom of how we always did it. The next time somebody goes through the chair ritual, let's create a flickr tag.

2 Comments

I honestly do agree with you about the Symposium and other events ... I do have a question though, if I am (or you are) taking pictures b/c of personal choice how does that effect all this? I am by no means a photographer ... I have a couple of cameras and at times I love taking pictures of things that are important to me. What happens when the thing that is important to me happens to be the Symposium or any other thing we do? Is that old school or am I acting as part of the community?

Trust me, I understand the point of the post ... this just made me stop and think about something critical surrounding identity -- bear with me, we're doing a lot of identity talking in my class this semester. Many say identity doesn't lie within, it lives within the perception others have of us. So if I take that approach, does walking around with a camera snapping pictures change my identity so I am "existing" outside of the community in the eyes of the community members? I honestly don't know.

These are strange and interesting questions, but I do know that part of the identity I have assigned to you is that of an artist ... in some ways it actually doesn't matter what you think, b/c according to certain scholars identity is tied to perception ... and like it or not I perceive you that way. I am also looking at a picture of you shooting a camera right here next to this comment box. That leads me to believe even deeper in the fact that you are indeed an artist -- photographer, illustrator, writer, and all of the other pieces of you that I perceive add up to artist in my mind. Not sure where I was headed with that -- this writing stuff exhausts me as well.

I guess my point is that, yes the community can clearly rise up and be part of documenting and sharing what we do (and when they do it is so much more rewarding for me). But, I question the notion that by us participating in a "pedestrian" activity like taking pictures we are not active members of the community. I also hear you that getting pointed in a general direction and being *told* to take pictures makes you uncomfortable -- not b/c of your skills, but b/c of lack of direction, purpose, and clarity. It is a good post that carries with it some very interesting questions ... and BTW, I didn't get the real reason behind the previous post, but I did love seeing a new side of your work.

dave said:

Thanks for the thoughtful comment; there's a lot there. Let me start by saying that the part of "identity" that I consciously create in this digital space is created for work. It's of course colored by my personal identity because some aspects filter in unconsciously and some are because I think, as an artist, Penn State hired part of my personal identity. But it is intended to be a projection of me at work. Hence, a photo of me taking a photo of me. The personal me doesn't own a digital camera.

This is getting hard to track...

For me, taking pictures at an event makes me feel separated from the event. It may make others see me as part of it, and, therefore some how official enough for them to forgive my intrusions; but the reality for me is far from that. Participants at an event who take candid shots from their own perspective are building a collective image of the event made from multiple personal points of view. Some may even shoot small bits of video. The sum of all these points of view, like wisdom in a crowd, offers a meaningful visual interpretation of an event. I couldn't beat that no matter how hard I try. Those visual bits collected and joined by tags and made available in waxing and waning sets online are valid anthropological/sociological sets of data, and I think we need to advocate for them rather than visibly model an archaic "hired photographer" model. If you're in the community and really into photography, that voice is represented. Someone who is into different things may snap a quick shot of the food. Or a video of ducks in a fountain. The "Number of views" may give us a sense of how the community values the images.

So, signing a group birthday card and assigning a group photographer are similar in the fact that they represent procedures that have become ingrained but are now of limited value. A personal gesture on someone's birthday has more meaning, just as personal images of an event have more meaning. The aggregate of little bits of meaningfulness- birthday gestures, anniversary congratulations, notes of sympathy, photos from a community of perspectives- can form a powerful body of information.

Single individuals, each with the ability to add their visual impressions to a collective. Phone photos, bits of video, even bits of sound. Yeah, baby.


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April 18, Symposium 2009; reimagine.
New content. Symposium 2008.Digital Commons at Penn State. Improve the workplace; hire for variety.

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