Friday, July 25, 2008

Photography and the Unconscious Panopticon: Part Two

The writer and critic David Levi Strauss says in his short essay, Click here to disappear: thoughts on images and democracy,

"I used to think that more people making images would necessarily lead to more conscious image reception, but I'm less sure of that now. It seems that it's possible to make images as unconsciously as one consumes them, bypassing the critical sense entirely."

The process of consuming images has always been largely unconscious, and the process of manufacturing them and distributing them for the public has tended to be so as well. In the past, that process, which includes taking the photographs, editing them, preparing them for publication, and then distributing them in printed form, was kept mostly secret and away from public view, and so it had an aura of mystery and intention. The inherent difficulty of this process forced a process of consideration and intention into the mix. There was just too much at stake to risk otherwise.

But the recent explosion of social media has all but eliminated the difficulties inherent in distributing images widely and in volume. By eliminating the resistance and the cost of distribution, these new media and the ease with which they operate make unconscious participation and unconscious content more likely, rather than less. Difficult processes provide a kind of resistance that requires deliberation and intention to overcome. The easy process requires less and less consideration from those participating. And the aesthetic forms with which we communicate are more and more dictated by efficiency, mass success and popular appeal.

This is part two in a summer serial posting. Click here for part three.

1 comment:

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