Tag Archives: Documentary

21 Tags: a reflection on the group project

In this entry, I will reflect on our group production project, “21 tags:the Documentary New Media Tag Hunt,” summarizing what the project achieved, how it could be improved, and how its approach (and new media more generally) might inform my own documentary practice going forward. As a web-based work, it can be viewed at mfataghunt.blogspot.com (best viewed with Firefox), and the previous two entries on this blog serve to provide some sense of the project’s evolution from conception through to completion.

Initially, we intended to make a distributed photo-documentary in real time on Toronto Island, focusing on a specific event – the 2008 Cycle Messenger World Championships. As the project evolved, we discovered that there was a considerable logistical problem facing our original plan; namely, that wireless internet access is only available within a relatively small radius of the Island marina, and that this connection is frustratingly slow. We thus opted to abandon the real-time-uploading aspect of the project, and, accordingly, to put less emphasis on the time-sensitive sporting event at the project’s core. In its place, we decided to shift our focus towards producing a more general, poly-thematic documentary about our collective understanding of a shared geographical space. At the same time, we also developed an interest in interrogating the value of tags as semantic/thematic categories, and decided that it would be interesting to collectively create a list of 21 tags in advance of the photo shoot, constituting the parameters for the documentary while allowing the participants the freedom to interpret and discover these tags according to their own personal tendencies and curiosities as documentarians. We hoped that the result would be a number of interlinked web-pages displaying separate photographic slideshows for each of the tags, with each slideshow creating a kind of collaboratively-authored typology reflecting, on the one hand, our interpretive differences as artists, and, on the other, our collective knowledge of a place.

Alex raised the important point that the photos taken during this tag-based “scavenger hunt” could descend rather easily into total incoherence; photographs, pregnant with so many potential readings, naturally have an interpretive openness, and we did not want the finished product to become a meaningless jumble. We decided to address this by requiring each photographer to write a short caption about each of their tagged photographs, and then severing this text from the photos and randomly juxtaposing the captions with any like-tagged images in the slideshow. Our goal was to ascertain whether images and text by different authors can display correspondences reflecting their shared senses of dwelling within a certain space. We had hoped that certain captions would have coherent (and yet variable) relationships with multiple images, and that said relationships would occupy a continuum ranging from the purely literal/expository, to the more ironic, metaphorical, or poetic. Thankfully, our experiment was largely successful, in that many of the tagged slideshows do work as convincing typologies, and the image-text relationships are often rich testaments to the coherence and even power of collaborative, distributed documentation. That said, some of the captions are too specific to their author’s own vision, and become incoherent when juxtaposed with any other images; perhaps we should have set clearer parameters for the captioning component to avoid this.

Before we set out on our photo shoot, it was difficult to know whether the project stood any chance of achieving a coherent sense of dwelling in the space of the Island. However, immediately upon returning from the Island with our photos and captions, we were much more confident about the project’s soundness; while each individual photo presented in some ways the visual hallmarks of its author, the combined result (especially when mapped in Flickr or Google Maps) was a kaleidoscopic or cubistic view of place, a kind of psychogeography of Toronto Island (though I confess I have little formal knowledge about Debord’s concept and, for fear of misunderstanding it, will not elaborate on it more fully here).

One thing I learned from this project is the value, modularity, and flexibility of freely-available, open-source web tools and interfaces. Lacking much programming ability, our group was entirely dependent on such platforms to display and organize our content. We stored, organized, keyworded, and geo-tagged our content in Flickr’s database, and displayed it in slideshows using a Flickr add-on called Pictobrowser, whose code we embedded into 21 separate Blogger blogs. We were afraid the result would look too jerry-built and/or pre-fabricated (and indeed, compared to a custom-made web interface, it certainly did!), but with a little inquisitiveness, we were able to tweak our embeddable code to make the finished product fit our desired form and style.

If we could do the project again, I would make several changes. First, I would have a stronger idea of the finished interface in advance of the media collection, to allow me to design the collection parameters more carefully. For instance, had I developed the interface in advance, I would have realized that the presence of vertical photographs requires one to increase the dimensions of the Pictobroswer slideshow, causing the captions to be hidden from view; in turn, I would have known to insist that all photographs must conform to a horizontal aspect ratio. I would have also kept the captions in text form (rather than converting them into stylized JPGs in photoshop), so that, according to Alex, we preserved their value as searchable, feed-able “data” that could be manipulated, filtered, and reorganized with powerful programs like Yahoo’s “Pipes” (we did experiment with Pipes as a means of randomizing the orders of images, but found some of its inner workings confusing). Lastly, I think this project’s strength lies in its ability to present a documentary portrait of a place from many vantage points, in the tradition of projects like [mumur] (discussed in a previous blog entry). In my opinion, the project’s effectiveness would thus be greatly magnified if it were a larger collective enterprise, one which presented the perspectives of dozens or even hundreds of participants as opposed to merely seven. But the possibilities for expansion remain…

During the New Media course, I was introduced to several ways of using the virtual and physical facets of computing to create new kinds of experiences, many of which appear to have a great relevance to documentary. I was surprised to find that working on a distributed documentary with a group was remarkably liberating; as predicted in the article on urban sensing, I found myself taking pride in the collaborative nature of the initiative, not just the limited products of my own lens. Authorship, carrying with it connotations of ownership, competition, and heroic “auteur” mythology, was minimized, and in its place, emerged a work whose strength lay in its multiplicity of voices. Also, lacking a single “director”, distributed documentary entails a whole different approach to methodology than is found in established doc media such as film and photography. Another thing I learned in new media was the importance of thoroughly considering and testing out presentation space (whether virtual or physical) before displaying art work, both documentary and otherwise. Although I am still very new to the traditional image arts and have much to learn about them before I can fully understand and harness the potential of new media approaches, this course has opened my eyes to new ways of producing, presenting, and promoting documentary content. Going forward, I know I will find both a challenge and an opportunity in exploring the greater palette of possibilities that lie beyond the boundaries of traditional media.

Above: A bit of documentation from our photo shoot on the Island. The air-mail envelopes (sealed with wax!) each contain a list of the tags to be photographed, and a map of the Island to facilitate geo-tagging (though portable GPS units would have been preferable). The notebooks are for writing the accompanying captions.

Above: a rejected title bar for the website. Notice the ghostly nude figure, seemingly unafraid of an approaching storm.

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.


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

The web and temporality

As I’m beginning to recover from the unpleasant virus that has waylaid me these past few days, and am starting to feel partly responsible for my diminished blog traffic (as displayed in the “Blog Stats” graph), I think it would be good time to re-visit the thorny article by Hellsten, Leydesdorff, and Wouters, “Multiple presents: how search engines rewrite the past” (2006). Unfortunately, I cannot say I understood every aspect of their methodology and findings, and for this I admit that my own technical shortcomings are entirely to blame (though the authors’ bone-dry, Dutch-inflected English didn’t exactly help). But I do find that the authors provoke a fascinating discussion of how the internet changes (or disturbs) our sense of time, positing in particular that search engines are broadening “the concept of the present from a fleeting point in time to a [fragmented] spectrum of actualities.” So, “the present” (at least as it’s experienced on the web) is no longer the “photographic” instant in time but a dimension created by the interactions of various cyclical frequencies: page updates, search-engine crawler visits, the evolution of the web (and thus, presumably, the replacement of certain search platforms by others… anyone remember when the name “Google” still sounded slightly funny, and when Excite was considered a normal place to search?).

The internet’s sense of time has always been a very mysterious thing to me, and until now, I have not considered it in any systematic way; websites seem to get old at varying rates, evolve or not evolve, be forgotten, disappear, and (occasionally) re-surface. We are often told, by way of warning, that information uploaded to the web is permanent: that it can never be removed. But at which time does “permanent” information makes the transition from “present” to “past”? Surely it wouldn’t be correct to say that information is “forever young” on the web, available for retrieval in its original state and context; web data has a way of morphing, of being de-contextualized and re-contextualized. One dusty web relic that could inspire angst-filled debates about the web’s temporality is the classic, not to say primitive “Hello my Future Girlfriend” (requires sound for full effect): is some fragment of its author preserved eternally as a lovesick 11-year-old from New Mexico, even if his original URL has long since disappeared and the site now only exists as a dozen mirrors, even if he is actually 25 and no longer living in the Southwest, even if his future girlfriend is now his ex? Too bad Roland Barthes isn’t around to have a go at this one. 

Because I don’t have any answers. 

Anyhow, 90s-meme digressions aside, the article deals primarily with the frequency with which search-engine algorithms re-visit old content, and this is clearly a complicated matter. But to better understand another, primary web process – the generation of news content – Google Trends seems to be a promising tool. At Google Trends, you can easily visualize both the search volume and the news-reference volume of various keywords, thus getting a sense of exactly when an issue or idea entered the public consciousness, how it was manipulated by the media, and when it disappeared from view (only back to 2004, but eventually that will seem like a long time ago). It appears as though Google does this by storing static pages rather than recording the changing headlines on dynamic websites, though I’m not sure. I actually tested the article’s chosen search term, “Frankenfoods” to determine whether, indeed, the term is a forgotten buzzword that has disappeared from regular usage: Google Trends confirms that it is.

I think this idea of temporality has an important relevance to our group project, since we’re considering ways of making a web-based documentary in real time, one whose significance will doubtlessly evolve as it changes from newly-generated content to archival material.

Work cited: 

Hellsten, I., Leydesdorff, L.,  Wouters, P. “Multiple presents: how search engines rewrite the past.” New Media & Society 8.6 (2006): 901-924.

Pervasive urban sensing / art vs. data

In a previous entry, I discussed my experience uploading content to Flickr, reflecting in particular on the implications of making EXIF metadata publicly available alongside the photographic image. In the article “Urban Sensing: Out of the Woods” by Dana Cuff, Mark Hansen, and Jerry Kang (2008), the concerns I voiced (in a somewhat impressionistic manner) about the building of a web-based data commons are systematically discussed under the headings of “property” and “privacy”.

As regards property, the authors note that “Copyright law only protects creative expressions; it does not protect the underlying data” (p.30). In the case of Flickr, this raises an interesting problem: is a digital photograph uploaded to the web a “creative expression” or an informational record? Or, more fundamentally, is it “art” or “data”? I had mentioned that, in the context of my printed photobook, the photographs decidedly fell under the “art” rubric, in that they were geographically non-specific images aimed at connoting a personal state of mind — lacking captions (and thus, context), they were not “data” in the traditional sense (or, to use the article’s term, they are scientifically worthless “junk data”). But when uploaded to Flickr, with metadata specifying time and photographic settings, and geographic data supplied voluntarily by me when I mapped the photos, the photos, freely available and submerged in the sea of information, lose some of their “artistic” value as standalone works (for instance, the monetary value the work might have in a high-quality, limited-edition print); simultaneously, they acquire an informational value as “data,” that can be aggregated with other citizen-collected information for any number of uses. (And, if my camera possessed a GPS sensing component, the geographic data could be as precise as the temporal data). The article asserts that what one loses in individual property rights one might gain through “attribution,” which I interpret as the ability to advertise one’s talent as a citizen data-gatherer and feel rewarded by contributing to a larger project. And I agree that being part of a distributed data-gathering project (such as distributed documentary) can be very rewarding.  

However, I think there is a curious paradox in today’s world, in that the need for academic credentials to “get ahead in life” has never been higher (look at the proliferation of MFA and MBA programs for proof), yet articles such as this one evangelize on behalf of the idea that “research” (scientific/artistic/political) is leaving the rigid central control of the Academy and becoming dependent on mass participation by all citizens, whether expert or not. Credentialization as a means to power vs. citizen participation as a means to knowledge: I have no clue what the implications of this are, except it doesn’t seem to be a sustainable tension. Thoughts?

The loss of privacy seems to be a simpler matter — constant self-surveillance, in which people voluntarily record and share information about their location and activities, is becoming the depressing norm. While the article argues that people will not contribute data to the commons if they perceive that “computer security is weak”, quite frankly I do not know if most people have any sense of how good or how bad “computer security” actually is. I, for one, do not. I did not even know that all my metadata was being gathered along with the coloured pixels in my photographs, and for all I know, maybe there IS a GPS sensor in my Nikon D80. But the web has enough conspiracy theories out there, and I have to get to class in the Rogers Communication Centre by 1 pm (there’s some self-surveillance for you!). Let’s just say that, as the article notes, privacy preferences ARE adaptive, what seems radically invasive today may seem commonplace tomorrow, and the cultural creep towards 1984 will go unnoticed by most.   

One question I’d like to throw out there: the article discusses the importance of data visualization (and who doesn’t love a good multicoloured map or cartogram?). But do we run the risk of a “culture of visualization”, where data integrity is secondary? 

Work Cited:

Dana Cuff, Mark Hansen, and Jerry Kang. “Urban Sensing: Out of the Woods.” Communications of the ACM 51:3 (March 2008): 24-33.    

Second Life: First Thoughts

(Edited: Scroll down to see pictures!)

I had meant to address Alex’s comments concerning the urban sensing article, but as last night was my first experience in Second Life, I think I should reflect on that first, since it is still fresh in my mind.

My initial impression was very much in keeping with Mark Tollefson’s view that, from a strictly graphical standpoint,the SL world can seem rather underwhelming, even outdated, in a world where first-person gaming has achieved a much higher standard of visual realism. Some might say this misses the point, but I think that if a sense of embodiment in the virtual space is important (and it is), the space should be equipped with a more nuanced and responsive sense of gravity, light, texture — even several years ago, when I last played a first-person shooter, I had come to expect the sound of different surfaces crunching under your feet, the veritable sense of strain/fatigue when climbing up a steep hillside, etc.

However, despite this first impression, after a few moments in the Second Life world, I found myself increasingly mesmerized. First, by the simple recognition that all the other figures taking their awkward first steps around Orientation Island, were, like me, real people being born at that exact moment into their virtual lives: a Second Birth, complete with feelings of awe, trepidation, and a restless desire to grow. OK, maybe this is an exaggeration, but it was pretty neat.

Then came the task of desgining my avatar’s appearance; this is decidedly unlike being born into the real world, in that you can choose how you look. But while my initial instincts were either to 1) fashion my avatar into an idealized version of myself, as in a Dürer self-portrait, or 2) create a freakish monster, emphasizing for comic effect everything I hate about my appearance, I chose a third possibility, which was to become a woman. I mean, why not? I also thought people would be nicer to me in-world if I were female, which turned out to be only partially true.

The appearance-designing engine in SL is quite extraordinary: I was able to make my avatar into a near-identical twin of my girlfriend from First Life — I did this partially to avoid feeling like a eugenicist toiling in some fascist dystopia to create an Übermensch (actually, in this case, an Überfrau, but let’s not split hairs).

Then it was off to explore the world. And a what an immense, diverse world it is. I journeyed to a detailed reconstruction of the Alhambra in Granada, where it was politely requested that I don a veil; I visited the in-world headquarters of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton (where I got to ride a shark!), not to mention the creepy, wood-panneled inner sanctum of the Republican Party; but mostly, I found a lot of places that looked like Club Med filled with Jimmy Buffett look-alikes. Oh well.

The one thing that I found discouraging was that everybody is trying to make money, and some (if not all) in-world ventures carry the whiff of scams. People are constantly trying to sell you junk, and you make the same laboured small-talk in SL boutiques that you make in real life when meeting with high-pressure time-share sales agents. (I mean, L$250 for Van Gogh’s Night Café might seem like a bargain, but it’s the size of a postage stamp and heavily pixilated. Oh, and it’s not real. It’s not as though there’s an in-world version of Antiques Roadshow that can somehow verify its virtual provenance). Others, like in the real world, are reduced to begging. So basically, if you are poor in real life, and cannot (or have the good sense not to) convert real dollars into Linden Dollars (a currency with an Orwellian ring to it), you get to be poor in Second Life, standing in the cold looking through windows at the sumptuously appointed tables of the rich, like a virtual Tiny Tim. Except that you’ll never starve. Maybe that’s how SL works as a new kind of documentary experiment, revealing for all the workings of the real world’s economic disparities by inscribing them into a virtual one. 

Or maybe I am completely wrong: I am new to this online world, and excited to learn and explore how it works.


Notes on Allan King

I just thought I’d post a report on yesterday’s master class with legendary Canadian filmmaker Allan King, held at Innis Town Hall and organized by the Documentary Organization of Canada. We saw several film clips spanning about 25 years, from the early, gritty CBC works like Skidrow (1956) to the controversial “actuality dramas” like Warrendale (1967) and A Married Couple (1969) for which he is most famous. The screening of Warrendale, with its troubling images of emotionally disturbed children lashing out against an unorthodox touch-based therapy, and A Married Couple, with its frank depiction of domestic conflict, prompted a vigorous discussion of documentary ethics: issues of consent, voyeurism, and editorial control were debated, as was the perennially-relevant question of whether the camera can observe unobtrusively, or whether it inherently elicits “performance” from subjects. As happens in many Q&As, I felt that a few questioners grilled him with undue intensity on ethical concerns without acknowledging the different social/cultural/artistic climate in which he worked, not to mention the simple fact that without the example of pioneers like King, few of us would be attempting to make documentary work.    

As moderator (and generally ubiquitous Canfilm guy) Marc Glassman noted, King stands rather apart from the other Canadian documentary pioneers of his generation, in that, from an early date, he maintained his own production company and strove to make films independently of the institutional filmmaking apparatus, embodied by the NFB. As his work is more unflinchingly bold than most contemporary NFB work, I had always assumed that King was more closely aligned with American cinema-vérité and particularly Frederick Wiseman. Wiseman’s first film, Titicut Follies (1967), a close contemporary of Warrendale, likewise examines a mental institution with striking similarities of approach and style (closely observational camerawork, lack of narration or interviews). Like Warrendale, that film was suppressed by authorities (more severely, actually). Furthermore, King’s longtime cinematographer Richard Leiterman manned the camera for Wiseman’s second film, High School (1968). It surprised me, then, to hear that King only met Wiseman relatively recently.

It was also interesting to get a sense of King’s process. He was unlike Wiseman (or a consummate cinematographer-director like Michel Brault) in that he felt his own presence would necessarily detract from the authenticity of a documentary scene, and spent most of the production of his great “actuality dramas” off-set, loading magazines or looking at rushes. 

In a slightly sad way, I feel that whereas the “golden age” of Canadian film embodied by King’s work has been well documented and celebrated, the current epoch in which non-fiction filmmakers are so numerous and stylistic/thematic lineages too tangled or diffuse to discern, will defy all such efforts at historical memorialization. The digital documentary scene is very different from the film-based one that preceded it, which essentially consisted of two large institutions for the incubation of talent and technology (the NFB and CBC) and a few lone wolves alongside them (King); assessing (and mythologizing) the current cinema’s significance in thirty years will be a very difficult and thankless task, I think. I don’t know, maybe this is just the kind of nostalgic, “après le deluge” thinking I am prone to.  

Apparently, TV Ontario is screening a retrospective of his work; I would recommend everybody check it out. A final thanks to Sadia for letting us in on this great event.

Virtual space as context of presentation

Now that the blog has been up for a little while, I have had some time to contemplate Alex’s question as to the effect of space (in this case, virtual space) on the context of presentation for visual works. Recently, I uploaded some landscape photographs to Flickr (see sidebar), taken on Toronto Island and in some midtown ravines in the dead of winter; these were originally presented in a printed book, produced for Blake’s Doc Studies class. For that project, I had juxtaposed these images with a personal archive of old letters and postcards, attempting to suggest emotional correspondences between text and images. In the original context of the book, the photographs were not captioned, and thus, deprived of their geographical specificity; their primary purpose was to present desolate, empty spaces and suggest the condition of solitude (admittedly in a rather Romantic way, along the lines of Caspar David Friedrich).

Flickr radically changed the context of presentation, and thus altered the meaning of the work. Using Flickr’s map function, I was able to pinpoint, with near-exactitude, the geographical locations recorded in the photographs, and was able to see all the photographs taken by the Flickr community in the immediate vicinity of those locations. For one thing, the sense of individual solitude was decidedly diminished; though the photographs depicted lonely snowscapes, in Flickr Maps, it is possible to get a sense of the sheer volume of photographers documenting the same (or nearby) terrain. “Documenting” is a key word; once a landscape photograph is pinpointed in Flickr (or Google Maps, or Wikipedia, for that matter), it becomes less a Romantic or expressionist reflection of the image-maker’s consciousness, and much more a specific document of a place at a given point in time. And the availability of EXIF metadata means that users can tell exactly which given point in time the photo depicts, not to mention how the photographer has enhanced the image in Photoshop. The photo becomes less singular, less mysterious, and more a piece of a bigger documentary puzzle. In effect, social media platforms such as Flickr make your photos part of an ongoing, collaborative documentary/encyclopedic mission, to record every place, person, thing in existence, from every possible temporal-spatial vantage point. (Obviously, the goal of said mission is unattainable; although with the proliferation of webcams, the paranoid and otherwise Orwellian-minded might reasonably disagree).

The paradigm changes, as individual images, immersed in a sea of other images, lose some of their individual value, but gain a different significance as part of a collaborative project, and the ego is forced to adapt (or possibly turn inward to painting or making daguerrotypes). That being said, sometimes I peruse the billion or so debates raging fiercely between thirteen-year-old wikipedians from their parents’ basements, and I am reassured that collaborative, financially non-lucrative online ventures do not by any means entail the death of the ego.   

An aside: personally, I opted to hide my EXIF data, for several reasons. For one thing, I think photographs, even those posted on social media sites, should leave viewers with some mystery (“was that Photoshopped?”, “what time of day was that?”, “was that taken recently?”). For another, as a novice photographer, I feel self-conscious, and don’t want the broader world to know that I took a picture in broad daylight with ISO 1000 (can’t I claim that my specific technical deficiencies are private?). I imagine that professional photographers would consider some of their metadata to reveal trade secrets; my metadata only reveals my flaws. (But then again, would professional photographers with a mind to asserting the monetary value of their work actually post work on Flickr?) Lastly, a minor point: I didn’t like being included in a graph depicting how many thousands of people used the same camera model – does Flickr exist only to provide market research information for Nikon, Canon, Olympus, Apple, Adobe? Anyway, my anxiety over metadata is, for now, mostly academic. I have received about ten picture views during brief my tenure as a Flickerite, and a sum total of zero comments.

By the way, I am still reflecting on the way physical (as opposed to virtual) space changes the context/meaning of visual work. We didn’t really get far during the exercise in which we were to project work on non-traditional surfaces (for the record, I brought a special holographic edition of National Geographic and some silk scarves, but time elapsed before I got to experiment with them). Will return to this question next time.