A wonderful publication, called Études Photographiques, brought to my attention by one of my informants in the Flickr case, who noted that an article on image sharing would be of interest to me. This journal is published by the Société française de photographie, in collaboration with CNL, CNRS and Ryerson University (Toronto, Canada). Interestingly, this bilingual journal has both a paper and web-based edition, though the articles on the web generally do not have images, due to copyright restrictions.
Tag Archives: Flickr
A few days ago, I wrote about some of the conceptual aspects of creating our fields. In today’s post, I reflect on the nitty-gritty of identifying what is relevant, and on the potential conservatism of my approach so far.
Of the four case studies in Network Realism, three are already underway. Sarah de Rijcke has been doing fieldwork on the practices around digital images of the collection of the Tropenmuseum, and has just started fieldwork on the practices around the documentation of artwork at the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam. Meanwhile, I’ve been developing fieldwork on the use of Flickr by researchers and curators who study street art. One of the important dimensions of the Flickr case is a relation to ‘research’ or academic work. This is partly to link up the project to other work at the VKS (which focuses on academic knowledge production). But the use of a resource such as Flickr by academics is also interesting in its own right, since it was not developed to support research: How does Flickr get inserted into academic work? How do academics present themselves and their work on this platform?
In developing fieldwork, I’ve tried a number of approaches. Most successful so far has been to identify researchers who work on street art and make use of photography. I’ve found these researchers from websites such as artcrimes, which has a section with l(inks to) publications and from searching journals, such as Photographies. From these, I have identified scholars doing relevant work. I’ve contacted them by email, and traced their activities on the web and in publications–and of course on Flickr. I’m also using citation patterns to identify, in a snowball way, other relevant academics. (For example, following Schacter’s publication ‘An Ethnography of Iconoclash’, in the Journal of Material Culture.)
In the coming weeks, I’ll be interviewing these scholars about their work practices. (When Sarah and I travel to London later this week, we will take part in CHArt‘s annual conferece (Sarah’s abstract is here) and meet up with colleagues and informants (Edgar Gomez, Rafael Schacter, and maybe Lane DeNicola?).)
These past few weeks, as I have been constituting the field, I keep coming back to the question: what would it mean for Flickr to be used for research? At this point, I can’t look at a photostream, and say, yes, this is produced by a researcher, or this collection is linked to a piece of research, or look at the membership of a group and say, yes, this one has a high percentage of scholars and curators. And I can’t say either whether these would be meaningful questions. As I learn about what these scholars do and how they use Flickr (or not!), academic or research-oriented activities on Flickr will become increasingly visible to me.
This uncertainty about what practices would look like underlies the motivation for following this ‘successful’ strategy of taking scholars and publications as starting points. While starting from traditional output such as publications introduces a conservative bias in the way I’m constituting the field, I’m well-aware of this and will be interrogating the effects of this starting point as fieldwork develops, and in the course of the analysis.
The first two weeks of fieldwork at the Tropenmuseum have generated so much stimulating new information, that it is hard to choose out of many possible topics. For now, I’ll stick to the event described in Anne’s earlier post: the photo competion WikiLovesArt/NL. The basic idea, as Anne already mentioned, is that people make photographs of objects, art works, etc. in the participating museums, and upload them to Flickr. Some of the best photos will be placed on Wikipedia pages, but there are also other rewards (for instance, 500 euros worth of photo equipment). The idea is that participants upload their photos to their Flickr account under a Creative Commons licence. Subsequently, they become members of the Wiki loves art Flickr group, and place their photos in there. A jury, consisting of the organizers and employees of the museums, decides which photos will be used for the Wikipedia pages (I’ll dedicate another post to this jury system). The Tropenmuseum is also participating. Indeed, a lovely intersection of two of the project’s case studies.
At the time of writing, 130 out of 866 photos in the WikiLovesArt/NL pool are tagged with Tropenmuseum. This is one of them, by 23dingenvoormusea.
Another participant commented on the photo, asking 23dingenvoormusea how s/he managed to photograph the drum through the showcase glass without reflections. The discussion that followed is an excellent example of how users shape what they take to be ‘realistic’ representations of the object. Interestingly, using Photoshop to get rid of reflections, and to enhance contrast, white balance, and sharpness, is considered as legitimate, even neccessary, in order to get at the real.
Last Tuesday, we interviewed the moderator of the Tropenmuseum Flickr group and his girlfriend, two enthousiastic amateur photographers who love to talk about their work. When I approached him for the interview, I also mentioned my interest in his experiences with the Tropenmuseum’s collection database. He mentioned that he had never taken a look at it before, which was intriguing in itself, and that he had only done so because of the interview. He was not very positive about the experience. According to him, the photographs of objects he found were very dry, documentary, only interesting for research purposes, while he tried to make photographs of the museum objects he really felt for, cherished. This he believed to be a more artistic approach to photographing the objects, with a different end result. His remark triggered me to search for the same drum as is displayed above in the museum database. Here it is, see what you think:
I’ve been spending some time with the museum photographers. They discuss each other’s work as well, for instance the lighting conditions, providing the objects with the ‘right’ shadows, etc. This photograph was taken in their studio, not in the museum. I think the photographer in this case deliberately chose to photograph the object from this particular angle, to bring out the shape of the object itself, and of the geometrical marks and carvings of trees, people etc on the drum/woman’s belly. This said, looking at this photograph is quite different from the experience of looking at the Flickr photograph, also due to its different context, not to mention the difference with seeing the object in the museum itself, amidst other objects, beautifully lit, etc.
While I had originally thought of researching how visual anthropologists use Flickr for their research, as I became more familiar with Flickr, the case of ‘street art’ seemed to become more interesting. Soren Mork Petersen’s great thesis on moblogging was also an encouragement to go in this direction.
Recently, other colleagues have also signaled their interest in street art as an object of knowledge:
Maxime Crépel works on folksonomies, especially the way people use tags. He works together with Christophe Prieur ( Liafa, Université Paris-Diderot) on Flickr tags with social network analysis and they have started to look at some streetart flickr groups.
Esther Milne’s (Swinburne University of Technology, Australia) query to the aoir-list made this work visible, when she called for materials on how graffiti and street artists use blogs, SNS, youtube etc to create artist based networks and communities.