Sarah Pink’s prologue to “De la Cultura Kodak a la imagen en red”

Sarah Pink, one of the world’s leading figures in Visual Anthropology and Visual Studies, wrote the prologue for my book. Since it is written almost as a review, I reproduce it here with her permission and in English. I want to publicly thank her for her kindness, support and interest.

Prologue 

Sarah Pink, April 2012

Edgar Gomez Cruz’s work responds and contributes to an emergent strand in scholarship around Communications and Media characterised by theoretical and practical turns away from the semiotic and towards the ethnographic, experiential, habitual and non-representational. In doing so it participates in the process of re-defining this field of scholarship in relation to a series of key theoretical and methodological moves that cross social sciences and humanities literatures and invite new interdisciplinary understandings of digital media. The geographer Nigel Thrift’s formulation of non-representational theory, he writes, ‘takes the leitmotif of movement and works with it as a way of going beyond constructivism’ (2008: 5). Such approaches, like that of the anthropologist Tim Ingold, have key critical implications for visual culture studies (see Ingold 2011: 316). They enable us to understand how the relevance of photography in the world goes beyond the visual content of images themselves and is bound up with their relationship with the multiple other things that are on-going in the worlds that they are part of. In this context alternative theoretical approaches have opened up new avenues through which we might comprehend digital photography. Indeed Ingold provocatively poses the question: ‘Should the drawing or painting be understood as a final image to be inspected and interpreted, as is conventional in studies of visual culture, or should we rather think of it as a node in a matrix of trails to be followed by observant eyes? Are drawings or paintings of things in the world, or are they like things in the world, in the sense that we have to find our ways through and among them, inhabiting them as we do the world itself?’ (2010: 16). The same of course should be asked of the digital photograph. Likewise conventional approaches to the study of digital photography through visual content are revised through the turn to practice theory, which has become an influential paradigm in sociology. Practice theory offers an analytical lens that turns away from the focus on culture. Instead as Andreas Reckwitz puts it: Practice theory ‘decentres’ mind, texts and conversation. Simultaneously, it shifts bodily movements, things, practical knowledge and routine to the centre of its vocabulary’ (2002: 259). These theoretical moves thus create a context where we have new and inspiring tools and frames through which to think about digital photography and the persons and things with which it is co-implicated in the world. Indeed to develop a contemporary study of digital photography involves departing from conventional analytical techniques in the study of the image. In doing so it moreover calls on scholars to follow the increasing urge towards working across and beyond the confines of traditional academic disciplines. Continue reading “Sarah Pink’s prologue to “De la Cultura Kodak a la imagen en red””

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Abstract “Photography as a networked practice in everyday life”

(accepted for the Digital Cameras as a Nexus in Everyday Life event. Helsinki. November 28-30)

Photography as a networked practice in everyday life: the case of a flickr group  in Barcelona

Edgar Gómez Cruz PhD.
Elisenda Ardèvol Piera PhD.
Internet Interdisciplinary Institute

The use of digital photography is transforming in great stance the role of photography in contemporary societies (Okabe & Ito, 2003; 2006). This paper is based on an ethnographic fieldwork of one year and a half with a group of photographers in the site flickr.com. The group, named “SortidazZ” is an amateur and snapshooters group in Barcelona.

In this research, digital photography is understood using a complementary approach: The Practice Theory approach (Reckwitz, 2002; Schatzki, Knorr-Cetina & Von Savigny, 2001) and as the sociotechnical network (Bijker & Law, 1994). Following Larsen:

Photography is so evidently material and social, objective and subjective, that is, heterogeneous. It is a complex amalgam of technology, discourse and practice. Photographic agency is a relational effect that first comes into force when a heterogeneous network of humans and non-humans is in place. (2008, p. 145)

The goal of this paper is twofold. On the one hand it discusses the main digital photographic practices of a heavy user group, and second, it describes the way the group is constituted and formed as a collective identity performing those practices. Two critical conclusions are proposed: the traditional role of snapshot and amateur photography is changing, from a memory device to a connectivity practice and from having a primary social cohesion role to be a key element in new groups formation. And second, that the formation of a “social network” goes beyond the specific technological platforms of mediation (flickr, Facebook, twitter, etc.). Although the studied group was born in flickr, their consolidation requires several instances online and offline where digital imagery practices plays a key role on it.

References

Bijker, W., & Law, J. (1994). Shaping technology/building society: Studies in sociotechnical change. Cambridge, Mass.(EUA): MIT Press.

Larsen, J. (2008). Practices and Flows of Digital Photography: An Ethnographic Framework. Mobilities, 3(1), 141-160.

Okabe, D., & Ito, M. (2003). Camera phones changing the definition of picture-worthy. Japan Media Review, 29.

Okabe, D., & Ito, M. (2006). Everyday Contexts of Camera Phone Use: Steps Toward Technosocial Ethnographic Frameworks. In J. Höflich & M. Hartmann (Eds.), Mobile Communication in Everyday Life: An Ethnographic View (pp. 79-102). Berlin: Frank & Timme.

Reckwitz, A. (2002). Toward a Theory of Social Practices. European Journal of Sociology, 5(2), 243-263.

Schatzki, T., Knorr-Cetina, K., & Von Savigny, E. (2001). The Practice Turn in Contemporary Theory. London: Routledge.