Not Valid for Travel (sobre el trabajo académico y la movilidad)

Últimamente he estado experimentando con formas emergentes de reflexión sobre el mundo (reflexión académica pero no sólo restringida a ello) que tienen que ver con lo visual, lo digital y lo cotidiano. En ese sentido cada vez me atrae más, y me resulta más inspiradora, la aproximación artística (en el sentido más extenso del término pero, al mismo tiempo, en el que encuentro más sugerente, el de la exploración creativa de la cotidianeidad). Se lo debo, en gran medida, a una reciente presencia artística en mi vida (que llegó para quedarse). Este verano de transición, además del trabajo académico tradicional he estado jugando con algunas ideas. Aquí está la primera de ellas que intenta reflexionar sobre la movilidad, la agencia, la temporalidad y la materialidad del trabajo académico.

El trabajo se titula Not Ready for Travel y es una fotografía de todos (o casi todos) los boletos de tren que he utilizado en estos tres años de trabajo en el Reino Unido. Cada uno de estos boletos representa, a la vez, un emplazamiento —el asiento, el vagón, la ciudad de donde parte el tren — y un desplazamiento —de una ciudad a otra —. También sintetizan relaciones —con las universidades, con los colegas, con la administración universitaria, con la agenda de trabajo, con el sistema ferroviario, etc. — y temporalidades —la cantidad de tiempo en el tren, las esperas, y el tiempo que tardé en reunir todos estos boletos —. En conjunto, en una sola imagen, se puede observar cómo, en mi caso, hay una estrecha relación entre movilidad y trabajo académico. En estos tiempos de big data y visualizaciones apelo a las posibilidades del hacer artesanal y lo creativo para constituirse como conocimiento válido, o al menos como una posible intervención, en el sentido artístico y político, en formas de pensar el mundo.

 La “obra” está pensada para imprimirse en un formato grande (metro y medio de largo al menos). La imagen está tomada con una cámara digital de gran formato (50 megapixeles) en la que puedan observarse todos los detalles de los boletos, información impresa pero también marcas de los revisores, manchas, dobleces, etc. La materialidad de la movilidad, la movilidad de lo académico. Una temporalidad visualizada.

Not Valid for Travel LOWRES

Intimidad mediada visualmente (invitación)

Más que nota ésta es una invitación. Vamos a ver si es posible utilizar el blog para un proyectito académico.

Estoy por comenzar la escritura de un texto sobre la creación de una intimidad mediada y su relación con el uso de elementos visuales-digitales (sensoriales, apuntaría Sarah Pink). La idea es un asunto que quedó pendiente en mi anterior trabajo y que no sólo surge de mi interés por la imagen digital sino que se conecta con antiguos trabajos sobre la comunicación y la identidad a través de dispositivos de mediación tecnológica.

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“Networked images”. A conversation with Anne Beaulieu and Sarah de Rijcke´s paper

I just finished the reading of the paper Mediated ethnography and the study of networked images — or how to study ‘networked realism’ as visual knowing of Anne Beaulieu and Sarah de Rijcke, that they presented at the Visual Methods Conference. What I would try to do now is to relate some of their thoughts with my own work in the spirit of exchange and share. I’ll do it in a personal and reflexive way more than to establish an academic critic of their work (which I found fascinating and useful).

The relationship between STS studies and research in cultural domains seems to be a difficult and  it has not been more explored (cfr. Couldry). In my own work I have tried to set a link between cultural production and the role of technology in its shaping. While there seems to be several works from STS that relate photography with technology (de Rijcke, Meyer), they all are settled in institutional and organizational environments. Therefore, the changing and shaping of image technology seem to be goal oriented since this use is framed by the institutions whose borders are relatively easy to trace. On the other hand, there is a huge corpus of research in photography as a cultural object. Not only related to the aesthetics but also many works that are interested in the circulation and “institutionalization” of those images, for example in the art field (Becker, Bourdieu). There is also a third corpus that reflects on the “impact” of new photographical technologies in the changing of society (for example how the Kodak Brownie camera created a new form of photography: the snapshot). My trouble is that these three fields are disconnected from each other and I need elements of the three of them to explain my fieldwork. The first (STS) is very aware of the mutual shaping between technologies and practices but lacks to incorporate the content, meaning and aesthetics of the images in their analysis. And also, they don’t seem to be interested in how people put their desires and tastes in the creation and circulation of those images. The second corpus (that we could call cultural circulation or social uses of photography) is concern precisely with these elements in order to understand the creation of visual elites and power, but seems to have a naive approach to technologies that make this possible. The third one (Social impact), is too technological deterministic and barely useful in an ethnography of the mediations.

With the emergence of digital technology, a greatest “networked complexity” is added to the equation. Continue reading

After photography?

“Once the world has been photographed. It is never again the same” (Fred Ritchin)

I just finished the book “After Photography” of Fred Ritchin. Somebody told me, about this book, that it was the “On photography” of the XXI century. Although I enjoyed it very much, I would say is more the “Being Digital” of photography. Ritchin, deeply knower of the photography insights, stands from the point of view of the mainstream photography, especially the photojournalism, and discusses the future possibilities of digital photography. Although an extraordinary book from the journalism point of view, and a serious commitment voice with the possibilities that digital photography could bring for the critical social media, it seems that his analysis lacks something which I think is the main force in the changing of the social meaning of photography: the people and their cameras in the everyday life.

Is not that he’s not aware of this, but he is more interested in the mainstream media and the “serious” photography. Even more, I felt that, at least in his book (I just started to follow his blog), he still talks like if photography was just one universal thing. This is one of the conclusions so far in my research, to think about “photography” doesn’t make sense anymore, even with the “traditional” labels (photojournalism, artistic, snapshot, etc.), and pushing it little further even genres are getting blurred (portrait, landscape, etc.). Photography is many things, not just one. He acknowledges this when he points:

The digital photography potentially will be so thoroughly linked to a multiplicity of media, both as recipient and producer, that communication of whatever kind becomes more important than the singularity of the photographic vision. The pixelated photograph’s ephemerality on the screen and its easy linkage, as well as the impression that it is just one communicating strategy amount many, reduce the individualized impact of the photograph as it appears on a piece of film or paper. Rather than as “photographers” for the most part these kinds of image-makers will be thought of simply as “communicators (p. 146) Continue reading

Ceci n’est pas une recherche du flickr

Foucault, in his fascinating, and beautiful, essay on Magritte’s famous painting, tells us that, the trap of the “Ceci n’est pas une pipe” paint is that the letters are not letters but calligraphies, which means that they are not naming anything but just happened to be there set in a position that we, as viewers, understand as a contradiction between the drawing and the meaning of the statement. Foucault’s thoughts are extremely tempting to follow but I’ll resist (this time). My point today is something else. A few days ago, in the AoIR list, Mayo Fuster, a colleague from Berkeley, asked about people doing research on flickr. My name popped out (thanks Ismael, or should I say: Dr. Peña?) and this made me think about my own work.

Flashback from the field I

I’m sitting in a bar with ten or twelve photographers. I’m in a bar because they decided to get together here and drink a few beers after a day at work (and, as an ethnographer, well, you know, I have to do what they do). None of them are carrying cameras and this could be a “regular” group of people, just one of several groups in this busy night at the bar (Barcelona is just like that). Nonetheless, here are some of the core members of the group I’ve been participating with for several months. There’s no trace or discussion in flickr about this “getting together”, it is a casual thing: I got a phone call, some other people were contacted by email and, another couple were luckily enough to found each other with someone at some local store and decided to join him. Discussions are multiple and, although they tend to be photography-centred, some of them range, from the last sports results, to gossips about other people in the group. Probably this will not be important at all except for one thing. They decide, at the end of the night, to organize a photowalk that, as soon as later in the night, will become a post in the group. That post would take, eventually, to several pictures taken, the integration of new members to the group, more beers and, definitely, a sense of belonging and identity. Continue reading

La reflexión sobre la fotografía hecha arte

Mientras que unos intentamos encontrar sentido en el uso de la fotografía digital en la vida cotidiana, otros reflexionan sobre ello creando artíe (y debo decirlo: genial). Me encontré con el proyecto de Sascha Pohflepp una artista alemana que, entre otros proyectos, tiene uno que me fascinó, se llama “Buttons” (yo le hubiera puesto “Instant Memories”). El proyecto consiste en un dispositivo que, al apretar un botón en un determinado momento, registra la hora y el día y busca en internet fotos hechas en ese instante (independientemente de en dónde y por quién fueron hechas), para finalmente  mostrar una en la pantalla del mismo dispositivo. Lo más interesante no es el proyecto artístico (que lo es) sino la reflexión de la que surge: “Hacer una foto significa hacer un recuerdo….para muchos, hacer sus recuerdos públicos es (ya) parte de la fotografía en sí misma”. Sigo pensando que mientras los académicos tenemos que ceñir nuestras reflexiones a esquemas más o menos rígidos, los artistas tienen más espacio para reflexionar sobre lo social de manera más lúdica.

Ciencia 2.0: Nueva “oficina” de mi tesis en Flickr

Aunque de manera oficial no he comenzado mi trabajo de campo y apenas estoy leyendo cuanta cosa puedo sobre fotografía (ahora estoy con rollos sobre la construcción de la mirada desde un punto de vista filosófico), me emocioné y, adelantándome un poco, he abierto una “oficina” de mi tesis en Flickr. Creo que será mucho más interesante de lo que pensaba, no sólo por los datos y vínculos que se puedan generar, sino por la reflexión a nivel metodológico sobre las herramientas para construir el campo y “estar” en él. Siguiendo a los colegas en sus reflexiones sobre la ética en la investigación de Internet,la idea también es “exponerme frente a la comunidad”, no sólo para desarrollar mi investigación de manera abierta y honesta sino para co-construir un objeto que, al ser de la vida cotidiana, nos “pertenece” a todos. Todo lo que se genere estará a la vista de todas las personas, así que será interesante, por ejemplo para el futuro, citar un grupo de construcción científica colaborativa dentro de una plataforma social (¿empresarial?). Y no, no estoy diciendo que sea el primero ni mucho menos, lo digo por si acaso. Son bienvenid@s de pasarse por ahí y participar.