What do Twitter, rolls of film, and the 100 Things Movement have in common? Stay tuned for some case studies.
… despite an apparently enormous capacity for digital storage, this abundance should not be viewed as a blanket invitation to a continuous pursuit and offloading of all the minutiae of existence. (It is hoped that we will not all turn out to be closet pharaohs seeking immortalization in our digital pyramids.) Few can cope with the unending waves of reflection and pseudo-reflection that permeate the Web, including its blogs. Or one day all too soon we will mourn the analog, a single photograph on paper seeming refreshingly modest by comparison. — From Fred Ritchin’s 2008 book After Photography. Preach on, Fred.
We take it for granted, and we settle for the worst, but the service of native mobile photo storage is truly lacking. Here, some mixed visual metaphors and detailed lists on how it could be improved.
For Pieces 2.0, I’m focusing on how deletion could support a stronger connection to the remaining photos.
A (rough) experience map that captures the experience of phone photography vs the baseline experience of camera photography. This is the product of literature, conversation, and web research. Most of my research has been on sharing experiences through images, so that part of this model is the most robust.
I think there’s a huge problem/opportunity in the difference in experience between phone and camera photography. Cameras are hardly obsolete, despite the popularity of camera phones. Yet camera photography isn’t part of the ecosystem of mobile (meaning more than just phone) photography, and the user experience of phone photography has yet to be thoughtfully translated to camera photography.
Next step: investigate outliers in phone photography to inform camera photography, with the ultimate goal of supporting a meaningful relationship with collections of digital photos.
From Flickr, a community of photographers and photography enthusiasts, as of today at around 3:15 PM EST.
If you poke around, you’ll find that point & shoot cameras are taking a nose dive in popularity, while camera phones are on the rise. The compact mirrorless is lagging behind the DSLR, and Nikon brand cameras are used less often than Apple phones and tablets. How ‘bout that.
There’s something very odd about a world in which it’s easier to imagine a futuristic technology that doesn’t exist outside of lab tests than to envision expansion of a technology that’s in wide use around the world. How did we reach a state in America where highly speculative technologies, backed by private companies, are seen as a plausible future while routine, ordinary technologies backed by governments are seen as unrealistic and impossible? — Google cars versus public transit: the US’s problem with public goods | … My heart’s in Accra (via new-aesthetic)
Data (as of today at 7:36 PM EST) pulled from Instagram’s API via Webstagram and manually categorized per my subjective assessment.
Another interesting thing: Just over half (50.01%) of Webstagram’s Popular Photos use no filter at all.
In case you wanted to know…
This is a response to chapter 2 of Fred Ritchin’s wonderful book After Photography.
One of my favorite pieces of video art is Beefsteak (Resurrection), by Daniel Spoerri and Tony Morgan, from 1968. It takes a bit of time to understand what’s happening upon first watching this 8 minute black and white film. It begins with human defecation and then moves in reverse: a person un-eats a steak bite by bite, the steak is un-cooked sizzle by sizzle, the cow is un-slaughtered, it un-eats a meal, and finally the cow itself un-defecates. At the end, you finally see the beginning.
I love this video. Among many other things: it questions our understanding of time, reveals our lack of relationship with the animals we may eat, and questions the nature of death itself. The footage was made in the 60s, and looks simple and uncontrived, yet the video creates a new version of reality and bends the rule of time and nature in the process. Spoerri and Morgan took the photographic image and strung it together within a context that created a new message and a new story.
A still from Beefsteak (Resurrection)
The problem is, this video hinges on reality. We have to believe that there is a cow, there is a cooking facility, and there is a steak and a fork, before we can grasp the meaning of those things within an altered framework of time. The good news is, at least within the world of this video, the alteration that has been made to reality is completely obvious.
The alteration itself as fundamental point of the process of alteration happens with regularity only in the art world. In most cases, we are surrounded by altered images that hide rather than announce their manipulations.
The world of advertising is an obvious example. As Ritchin says, “Each image exists to make me want to find out something that is probably useless, to purchase the product described no matter how unnecessary, or to brand it so it will seem familiar each time I see the image or name again. There is no relationship for me, the viewer, with an actuality that exists independently of the intended transaction.”
The use of the photo as pointed message, a message that gains power from its proposed relationship to reality, is certainly not new. However, the photo as transaction is an idea worth exploring in further depth. Ritchin addresses it regarding advertising imagery, but what about the more personal transactions we have with our own photos?
In sharing our digital images on social networks, we ourselves become a face-recognized, demographic-mapped, socially-situated human product to be sold to advertisers as a direct outcome of a photo transaction. In this case, the “actuality that exists independently of the intended transaction” becomes the focus of our attention, while the intended transaction remains hidden! What Ritchen missed is that Pixels and Paradox extends past the bounds of the image frame.
This is an image that I altered using Instagram. Facebook, through Instagram, knows who I tagged in this image, who liked it, who else took this image at this time, and where it was taken. Which of those facts is a more disturbing or paradoxical outcome of this photo?
Ritchin says, “The photograph, no longer automatically a recording mechanism, is not as able to “appropriate the thing photographed” as much as to simulate it. In the age of image, the relation to the world it offers may not be knowledge or power but something like conceit.”
I suggest it’s this very conceit that prevents us from seeing not just the manipulations to the digital image, but also the manipulations that digital images are causing in our lives. We want to see versions of our selves, our friends, and our world that are engaging, digestible, and as visually appealing as possible. In the process, we are creating a new world without noticing what it is.
Ritchin is not wrong in stating, “As in the sciences, the very act of observing can fundamentally change an outcome, and so can also fundamentally change us.” But what we aren’t observing can change us, too. I suspect that we’ll understand those changes in hindsight, and will only really see the beginning at the end.
The process of research is often boring and frustrating. The only part of design research I consistently like is the challenge of externalizing knowledge by synthesizing findings. Leveraging discovery demands a subtle balance between stating the obvious and languishing in obscure detail, and clarifying and humanizing complex information is what design is all about.
Sadly it’s not enough for me to say, “I did an enormous amount of reading, and here is the result of that work.” This is a Masters thesis project, so I have to be able to go into detail on what that enormous amount of reading was all about, why I did it, and what I got from it. And while book after book talks about synthesizing user research findings into actionable insights, there are none that I’ve found on synthesizing literature research findings. I think the reasons for this are fairly obvious. Thus, the biggest challenge I’ve been facing lately is finding a way to both communicate and most effectively utilize the literature-based research I’ve done.
When faced with a thorny problem, I try to get some distance and perspective. Some time ago, I began categorizing my readings into three broad types: prototypes (examples), frameworks (principles), and theory (approaches / pure knowledge). It occurred to me that these different types of literature might demand different types of synthesis.
I did a quick brainstorm on literature synthesis methods, and then mapped those methods onto types of literature. The resulting diagram is below. As frivolous or reductive as this might seem, it’s helped me think through how I can best communicate and present the knowledge I’ve gained through reading.
Do you know of any methods or approaches that I missed? Shoot me a message or email and let me know.
At one point, I laid the early groundwork for an exhaustive review of the competitive landscape. Despite clearly defined goals and an articulated process, it became obvious this review would take an enormous amount of time and contribute little to the project. I abandoned it completely for a more targeted approach.
No tool is universally applicable.
As a language enthusiast, I often use the dictionary recreationally. From Merriam-Webster, these two definitions are absolute gems.
If the dictionary reflects the concerns and values of the cultural mainstream, which I believe they aim to do, then: ideation is bad, and rigor is extreme.
I’ve been doing a lot of both lately.
I started with a casual ideation process based on my readings and research, simply jotting down notes and ideas as they came to me. From there I moved into a more rigorous (some might say strict or extreme) regimen of capturing my notes. Using my readings and research, I identified the key themes in the space of mobile digital photography.
I pulled the 3 biggest themes - sharing, performing self, and digital possessions - and assessed their limits.
For example: What happened if sharing became one singular, undifferentiated task, or a series of increasingly specialized ones? What happened if performing self became an extreme performance, or if we lost control of it entirely? What happened if digital possessions had the same rules as physical ones, or none of those rules at all?
Using this juxtaposition of mobile digital photography + limits, I was able to quickly identify the emerging critical design principles: challenge understandings, break expectations, induce discomfort, enforce limits.
I used these principles to guide several rounds of rapid ideation. The outcome ranged from thoughts as undeveloped as “cloud service” to more refined ideas that I captured in a few words.
My ultimate goal is to create a critical design solution, an intentional contradiction in terms. I moved my ideation into an assessment matrix, and am assessing it against the principles and goals of this project. More later.
Planning the deployment of my diary study, with lots of arrows…