Revised project summary and updates

We are still compiling a list of tags that we will each find and photograph on Toronto Island: everyone is to submit three tags on the blog by today, so that we will have a total of 21 tags for Sunday. I think that the ideal tag is open to various interpretations, but likely also to refer to something concrete on or near the Island. For instance, “Lighthouse” or “CN Tower” are too narrow and specific, but “Tower,” though not vague, could refer to any tall structure visible from the Island and would thus be a good tag.

The new aspect to the process is that we must all write a short caption to accompany each photograph we take; this text can be personal and emotional, or dryly historical-expository, or can incorporate any other style you like – treat the text as your own personal interpretation of the site you are choosing to photograph, according to your sincere estimation of that site’s significance to you, or to the broader public. The result will be that each person has 21 tagged photos and 21 similarly tagged captions. Thus, if “water” was a tag, then the group would produce seven photographs of “water” and seven captions about “water” in the context of Toronto Island.

We are going to build a web platform that uses a database to randomly pair like-tagged photographs and captions. Thus, the interface will display a series of photographs and accompanying captions, in which it is not entirely clear to the viewer whether the text and image are the work of the same author. In some instances, we expect participants to document the tags similarly, reflecting a shared, collective view of one aspect of the Island (in these instances, it would be most difficult to viewers to discern the authorship of images and accompanying texts, and, one might argue that in such situations, individual authorship is not as relevant as shared knowledge and documentary strategies). However, for other tags, participants will be wildly divergent in their documentary concerns/approaches, and this will be evident when like-tagged photos and captions seem to bear little or no relationship to each other. In each case, the viewer will be challenged to assess relationships between image and text.

It seems that, given our technical limitations in the domain of programming and web design, we should use a freely available interface such as a wordpress blog. Graham has raised a number of design issues, and has asserted that a blog-type of interface may not be the best platform for the project. I believe that a radically simple interface, that foregrounds the core concept of a photographic narrative captioned with texts that float mysteriously between various degrees of relevance, is the best solution. We plan to meet with Alex in the next day to work out a final form for the interface.

We hope to produce a documentary portrait of a geographical space reflecting the different perspectives of our seven participants, and one that posits that a certain collective understanding of a space can be demonstrated through a work with a distributed, collaborative authorship. In the process, we also plan to interrogate the perceived correspondences between image and text.

Update #1:

For several hours, Graham and I experimented with some Flickr add-on widgets that allow you to embed and visualize Flickr content in various ways. In my explorations I found a nice, customizable slideshow tool called Pictobroswer; you can fiddle with the html code a bit to get a fairly clean looking effect. The top Pictobrowser window could be fed with the tagged images from a Flickr set, and then we could turn the captions into JPGs in photoshop (say, in white text against a black background), and then feed them into a second embedded Pictobrowser below. Thus, we can cycle through the like-tagged image-text combos for an effect similar to the one agreed upon. One issue that arises is that WordPress will not allow this kind of embedded code; thankfully, Blogger will.

Update#2:

We’re still struggling with developing a suitable interface for our new media project. Alex Bal recommended a service called Yahoo Pipes that allows you to manipulate/filter/visualize streams of data such as RSS feeds from Flickr. It is possible to embed the pipes’ output into blogs such as wordpress and blogger. But as of yet, I don’t think Pipes allow you to randomize the data; if this is indeed the case, I still think Pictobrowser is more aesthetically flexible and elegant.

I have experimented with both platforms here (this is just a sandbox for developing forms – the content is just dummy text and images): mfataghunt.blogspot.com

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