MOSAICS AND MULTIPLES - Online digital photography and the framing of heritage/Chapter 9

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Tiivistelmä suomeksi / Summary in Finnish: Sivu on tiivistelmä Production of Social Media -kurssin lukemiston referaatteja, joissa opiskelijat käyvät läpi kurssikirjan lukuja yksi kerrallaan.


Summary written by Nora

Digital photography play an essential role in the digital world of cultural heritage and also of social media and photo sharing sites. The number of photographs is immense and we tend to watch at collections of very small thumbnails instead of paying attention to an individual image. In this large volume of imagery a lot of cultural heritage is implicated.

Digital archives[muokkaa]

Digital images are a media of presentation, documentation, analyze of cultural heritage and can be claimed as cultural resources themselves. Cultural heritage is not fixed and can change everyday by the attention we give to the objects. There are different definitions like the one from the UNESCO which highlights the "universal value" and the "preservative character" of cultural heritage objects. In traditional understandings cultural heritage is often fixed on buildings or monuments but also intangible and cultural practices can be seen als cultural heritage. Photography is an important cultural practice which is no longer a privilege of professionals but can also be performed by nearly anyone today. Cultural Heritage is often supervised by institutions who want to guarantee a certain level of quality and worth of the object. The issue we have concerning digital photography is the quantity and the hard decision what its worth to be preserved in an archive.

Digital photographs in quantity[muokkaa]

Digital photography gets always compared to the "real" analogue photography. The days of the old lovingly designed photo albums seems to be over instead digital snaps get immediately sorted by date or place and get dusty on hardware and only exposures as very small thumbnail. Nevertheless they are important for the communication among people. The innovations in camera technologies really changed the photography behavior and a major change came with the smartphone. Mobile phone cameras are easy to handle and ready all the time. They are carried around all the time and dont need special protection in an extra case. With good lightning conditions the quality of the photographs is quite good and people are able to do nearly everything from wide angle to close up photos. The deciding point against other small digital cameras is the sharing function. Photos can be uploaded and shared seconds after takinga picture. The pictures can get additional information like tags for certain places or people. Our communications is influenced by various media which consists of other media. There is also the possibility to do photos of photos and create metadata about the picture in that way. It's important that pictures can get sorted by metadata and categories to enable searching engines to find particular ones out of the wide pool of photos in the internet. Vast number of photos can get stored on smartphones or other mobile media. They can be shared online and also shown to friends when we met them in person. This images can help us with storytelling and construction of our self-image or the relation to a group. We do not only produce lots of photos we also have plenty of cameras available because most mobile media have a camera included among other functions. The quantity of photographs influence the understanding of qualitative photography and this also influences the meaning for cultural heritage.

Digital photography and heritage[muokkaa]

Digital photographs can be used in several ways in the wide field of cultural heritage studies. They can be seen as tool for documentation and analyzing and also sharing the content but it can also be seen as cultural heritage and cultural heritage practice itself. Digital photographs are essential when cultural heritage shall be displayed online and to create 3-D models of an object including the texture an surface of the materials. Most cultural heritage services wouldn’t work without an visual representation of the cultural heritage. There are quite some services which use photographs in combination with other media like maps and combine them to create new meaning and be able to offer new services to the user. Google Maps is just one example of this combination. Tourists can track their route on a map and get further information about monuments or sightseeing places in the area. Elements on the photograph can get tagged and sorted into different categories. This enables users to find them easily. Most mobile phones and every modern smartphone has a digital camera included. With this technology even hidden places can get found and documented from nearly any person. Another reality can be shown through the combination of photographs and mobile media. One keyword is ”augmented reality” which enables a different view of places showing hidden or past phenomena. Heritage is an ever-changing process and what we claim to be heritage references to our state of affairs and the circumstances of the society who decides what we call cultural heritage. When the society changes also the cultural heritage changes and in our days there are a lot of very heterogeneous diverse communities. Photographs is used as raw data to create new heritage items. What makes it so difficult to work with digital photographs is the storage problem and also the quantity of photographs. One way to manage quantities is to classify the photos and think of the similarities of the objects shown but on the other hand quantity can also highlight differences in representation.

Massification The Industrialization of image production leaded to a extreme large number of digital photographs which includes a change of the value of the individual photograph. Also the balance between official photographs and private ones started to blur. The mass production also leaded to mass consumption of pictures. Photo sharing through social media can be concerned as a mass phenomenon and influenced the communication between thousands of people. Massification constructs a particular frame and changes the angle and attention for the unique and individual photo and brings it in context with the ton of other photographs. The internet holds up lots of possibilities for small-scale producers to establish their own niche markets. In other words social media can be used to address minorities and satisfy their needs and also highlight them as community and supporting the spreading of their cultural heritage. There are also a lot of internet sites for professionals who compare the self-portrait and the stereotyped pictures of different cultures. The differences in the representation can be very fertile for different sciences.

Toxic archives[muokkaa]

I liked the heading the author of the article chose for this sub chapter and so I want to use it here too. The large number of visual records challenges those who are responsible for creating long term archives. When information gets stored they have to be managed in some way and the whole process gets an institutional aspect. The institutions are responsible for preservation and conservation of the information. According to Freud the author mentions the difficulties of the information store. Giving away information is important to include other people and enable them to gain knowledge from the information. On the other hand can releasing information also destroy the content. It seems logical that fragile analog photos on paper have to be exposed under special conditions and remain untouched by humans except some professionals who have to scann, digitize and study them. The risk of destroying through exposing objects to people outside the core of professionals is one concern but its not a institutional one only. Also private person often keep their photos away from public to prevent them from being copied or exploited. Institutions must keep the balance of exposing and hiding information. They have to release enough information to attract people but also hide enough to let them visit their institution and remain interesting through not showing too much information. Museums and institutions are not only a storehouse of knowledge and information but also instruments of power.

Body Language[muokkaa]

Photography is an physical aspect before and behind the lense. Taking photos implicates physical movement, people freeze in front of the lense to get in the right position. Early cameras were heavy and a tripod had to be carried around to use the camera. People had to stand still for a long time to get portrait. Cameras have changed they’ve become small boxes worn around the neck of the photographer. LCD Displays displaced the eye-level viewfinder and it was no longer necessary to hold the camera close infront of the eye. Instead of this a new position from the distance of one arm’s length became popular. Another giant step in camera technology was the combination of cameras and cellphones. Today nearly every cellphone has a camera included and smartphones enable to share them online worldwide. Camera technology and practice influence each other. Cameras have several functions like auto-corrections and also the quality improved and its possible now to take enhanced quality photos even with a small cellphone camera. These cameras need no special protection or an extra case and can be carried around without any effort and can be used immediately. The body but also space can be arranged on photographs by choosing a certain angle or perspective. People behave differently when the move their body to catch a certain moment in a particular perspective when they know that they might get watched on this process. The body can be arrange in various ways on photographs. It can be cut into pieces for example showing only the hands of a piano player. There can also be a loss of inidividual dimensions when people where uniforms or other official clothes that standardize them. The number of photographs showing special moments and arranged scenarios are higher than those showing daily routines. People act different when they know that they are surrounded by cameras.