Don’t ask me, I just share here..

I love social media, this is true. I could bore you to tears for paragraphs on the good it performs in modern society, but I am increasingly becoming frustrated and concerned by one particular aspect of it that the last  few week’s of news has intensified.

Let’s call it the ‘instant opinion’ problem.

Much has been said about the ‘quick fix’ aspect of the web but it cuts increasingly both ways. Speed is of the essence and when something significant happens we all feel we must Have Something To Say about it and preferably before anyone else.

This leads to several issues:

  1. The constant pressure to form an opinion on something within minutes of it happening (no matter how politically complex, personally distressing or just plain baffling) and project that opinion boldly to the world.
  2. The pressure, having done that, to stick to this opinion (even in light of new discoveries or change of heart) in case you seem a hypocrite.
  3. The fear that if you don’t offer an Instant Opinion you will appear shallow or foolish as you merrily tweet about your lunch or the new Ke$ha single instead.

What this leads to is everyone making a whole lot of noise about things they often don’t really understand. People have always had similar interactions - over dinner, across the water cooler - but in the past we had at least a little breathing space to gather ourselves. It concerns me that we are not only losing the desire (and ability) to consider, analize and chew over subjects but that doing so is in fact becoming almost stigmatised as a sign of a poor mind rather than an educated one.

I don’t have the answers to everything, so I plan not to pretend I do anymore!

It’s times like this when Twitter really comes into its own. As a truly democratic forum, everyone can get involved and have their say, and it’s easy to share information and ideas. And because it’s all so public, it’s very hard for companies to ignore public pressure or hide behind rhetoric. For every 5,000 tweets with a funny cat photo there’s a moment like this, when Twitter remembers what it can really do.

It was truly astonishing to see how angry all sorts of people were with the behaviour of the News of the World, and how eager they were to do something about it. To the Republic of Twitter, now finding its voice on this subject, it clearly wasn’t an ethical minefield, or a thorny legal issue, but a simple case of right and wrong. Morals, as they used to be called. The depths Rupert Murdoch’s paper has sunk to – and questions are now being asked about other police investigations, including that into the murder of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman – is extraordinary.

Viceland Today / MINORITY REPORT: LONDON GAY PRIDE

I could just do a regular report on gay pride like all the rest of the LAMEstream media. But this is fucking VICE fucking MAGAZINE, the publication that brought you that story about the Botswanan cowboy metalhead scene. Not wanting to disappoint, I decided to try and hunt down the nichest niche members of the LTGBTBGBQI scene at this year’s London Pride.

img_9740

LGBT SCUBA DIVERS

“Sometimes regular scuba people won’t want to dive with you. So it’s nice to have a place you can feel safe, ya know?”

Minority rating: 7

- JAMIE LEE CURTIS TAETE

Oh I love VICE <3

In 2006, Condé Nast, home of The New Yorker, Vogue, Vanity Fair and all that coffee table stuff, bought Reddit. Reddit, if you don’t know, is a content aggregation website, run by a small staff and fuelled by loyal fan base. A sizable portion of whom are pretty excited about underdressed underage girls.

[…]

Though there have been a couple of business blogs about this – pointing out that the undesirable content may be behind Condé Nast’s desire to distance themselves from Reddit – it hasn’t had any mainstream coverage. Which is weird, because the fact that the company who own Teen Vogue also own forums on which people sexualise the Teen Vogue target audience, sounds like Mailbait.

Today’s top ‘/Jailbait’ image is called ‘Cute Asses’, and features two naked women in a shitty photo, posing with their backs to camera. Frankly, while they’re clearly not 35, you can’t really tell how old they are. From the thumbnails, it doesn’t look like the forum is a hive of paedophilic porn, but in the interests of not sullying my predictive search bar too much, I haven’t clicked on all of them.

I guess it’s another infuriating case of dickheads ruining it for the rest of us. You want free speech? You’ve got to put up with Nazis and chumps. You want free press unimpeded by super injunctions? You’ve got to learn to accept the popularity of bawdy gossip. You want a free internet, where information can be shared across the globe? Annoyingly, you might have to put up with some pervs. However, were this to surface as a mainstream news item, I’m sure Condé Nast would find themselves in an awkward position.

Photography deals exquisitely with appearances, but nothing is what it appears to be. ~Duane Michals

President Obama’s decision not to release images of Osama bin Laden’s corpse, and the heated debate it has engendered, speaks volumes about the continuing power of the photograph even in a time when we are overwhelmed by digital images of every hue, from the mundane to the ultra-explicit.

- Osama bin Laden’s body: the world’s most incendiary image | Art and design | guardian.co.uk

The article quoted above is really worth a read - it very thoughtfully explores the ethical debate surrounding photographic imagery of war, conflict and tragedy.

On one hand I find it it fascinating how even now we put so much store in the ‘truth’ of the photograph. Despite the proliferation of photoshopped images we still inherently see photography as proof. That said it’s fairly easy to weed out the altered images - as Demi Moore recently found out - but context is just as easy to ‘fix’ and far harder to identify.

Photography (and video for that matter) in war, conflict or tragedy will always be emotionally charged because it is disturbing in it’s self and doubly so because we are in the position of a mute observer. Add to that a political charge or bias and the role of the war photographer can become incendiary. Does this mean we should be shielded from it? I don’t know but I do know it should be objective and not politically motivated - of course it never will.

Do I want or need to see the bodies of political figures? Again I don’t know - but I’ve seen River Phoenix’s corpse. I’ve seen Marilyn Monroe’s. I’ve seen Michael Jackson’s - blown up to fill the front page of OK magazine. The BBC posted the audio recording of the 911 call for Michael Jackson’s death on their website. Similarly much of the imagery coming out of Japan after the tsunami was horrific - and again featured in giant colour slideshows on the BBC website. Need I even mention the people jumping from the Twin Towers on an endless loop of international news?

Like I say I’m not sure whether I think it’s our duty to absorb this stuff or just another form of rubbernecking - but I do believe we have to be honest about our motives in showing (or not showing) these images. Is it to feel the reality of these situations we are not personally experiencing more acutely - or to sell papers, to drive propaganda or to shield us from the truth?

Either way the photographer - be that professional or otherwise - is surely still one of the most important components of news reportage, yet so rarely acknowledged.