MTV mobile presents a GIF me more party in the form of an interactive video with music by Death Grips. The a very cool preloader fires through a series of images and stop motion that is meant to simulate an animated GIF. Looks as though it’s actually video shot at high speed, the films been really nicely graded, then frames are dropped and some filter applied before being converted to flash. The interactive video portion is really impressive, the idea that you can choose from three different character POV’s is a good concept but the fact you can choose from different party goers throughout the video is amazing. The whole thing is very slick, topped of with a great audio track. I’d love to see someone do something like this with HTML5+, now that would be really cool.
Check it out here: gifmemoreparty.com
Lippincott has created a refreshingly simple new logo design for eBay. Doing away with the stretched, squeezed and overlaid transparent letters, the logo stays largely true to the original in color palette and the tight kerning respects the original overlay while bringing a new maturity to the brand.
Another reflection of sophistication is the way in which the new logo was announced. Ebay’s web page announcing the new logo identity uses parallax scrolling, an interface that presents two or more layers moving at different rates of speed. In this case, the background appears fixed and a window (or frame) passes over it as the user scrolls down the page, but the background page is actually moving when it is obscured from view by the foreground layer. While this doesn’t optimize the capabilities of parallax scrolling, it does aptly use the scrolling in a way that compliments the more mature message that is being conveyed by the new logo.
The announcement page can be viewed here.
This is the Flash interactive narrative by the Goggles. It can be watched here.
This is the required online course that all 3rd year core students must take as part of the approval process for their research project. Here is some background on it:
The online tutorial TCPS 2: CORE (Course on Research Ethics) is an introduction to the 2nd edition of the Tri-Council Policy Statement: Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans (TCPS 2). TCPS 2:CORE consists of eight modules that reflect the content of TCPS 2. It is applicable to all researchers involved in human participant research, regardless of discipline or methodology. The purpose of TCPS 2: CORE is to provide an introduction to TCPS 2, primarily for researchers and, secondarily, for Research Ethics Board members.
The certificate of completion for the tutorial is required of all University researchers conducting primary research with human participants, and recommended for all REB members. A copy of the certificate should be sent to the Emily Carr University Research Ethics Board – firstname.lastname@example.org. Annual renewal is required for all University researchers conducting primary research with human participants.
And here’s the direct link below, it’s not that long of a course (relatively speaking) but it isn’t a quick quiz either. Will probably take you a few hours to complete so you may want to start as soon as you have a few spare moments (your progress is saved when you log out so you don’t have to do it all at once).
Okay, good luck. Or maybe I should say Gambare (Japanese for “Do your best”).
As the anniversary of the American dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima approaches in just a few days, I thought I would post this important documentary online. It gets closer than many I’ve seen in explaining the reasons behind the US decision to drop a uranium atomic bomb on Hiroshima on the 6th of August followed by a plutonium atomic bomb on Nagasaki only 3 days later. It also speaks powerfully of the immense immediate and long term suffering inflicted on the civilians, who were the direct target of the attack, as they made their way to work that morning.
Whatever your beliefs are about the use of atomic weapons or justification for the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, this film will provide opportunity to think again about those events and the people they affected.
An excellent and concise explanation of the difference between modernism and postmodernism, courtesy of the Open Learning University.
The modernist tradition rejected the mythical and religious views of the world and gave rise to science, democracy, liberation movements and a belief in the supremacy of rationality. Within this tradition there was an implicit belief that there existed a given external reality and that the task of all enquiry was to develop a better and better model (or map) of that external reality.
The postmodernist perspective is that the assumption about a pre-given external reality is not valid, especially in the domain of human culture, values, beliefs and organisations. In general, and particularly in these social domains, it is impossible for anyone to have a model of reality that does not constrain their perception in some way. So while postmodernists do not say that there is not an external reality, they would claim that it is impossible to have an unbiased perspective on what it is.
As the new socio-economic paradigm begins to emerge from the current post-modern period, the designer will play a central roll in the transition to, and evolution of, a new sustainable and equitable global society.
It is important to view the designer’s role in the emerging social and economic paradigm from an historical perspective. Understanding this role is imperative to the discussions, as historical analysis is the foundation and the context for this future-based supposition.
Historically, the designer as currently understood, could be seen to have come into being in the early part of the industrial era.The impetus of demand for communication design was an early recognition that in order to sustain the burgeoning industrial revolution, it wasn’t simply possible to continually produce goods, bur rather, a demand for these goods had to be developed.
In Capital, Karl Marx described the idea of use value vs. exchange value as a way of explaining how commodities are valued within a capitalist industrial market. As use value is associated with production, quantified by the commodity’s physical properties, it limits growth in value as it is fixed to an unchanging measure. By replacing use vallue with a floating and abstract exchange value where currency becomes the measure (“Capital Vol. 1″ 126-130), the commodity value is free to be influenced by external factors such as speculation of demand (“Capital Vol. 2″ 148-150). It is the generation of this demand that brought about the early role of designer.
While industrial, architectural and community designers played integral roles in initial product or service development, a new need was developing that would result in the creation of the communication designer. As products and services were developed in the industrial capital system, issues of generating demand also developed. The role of the new communication designer was to generate that demand through increasing awareness of availability. The public or consumer had to be informed of these objects in order for the first stage of demand to be implementyed. These objects were initially needs based commodities focused on necessities that could be provided more cost effectively and with ubiquity.
As production increased so did the wealth in the hands of labourers in the production process. With growing saturation of needs based production, the new increased income of labourers crated an expanded market and potential for more diverse commodities.
As labourers themselves buy articles of luxury, the rise in their wages does not promote and increase in the prices of the necessities of life but simply displaces buyers of luxuries. More luxuries than before are consumed by labourers. (“Capital Vol. 2″ 344)
Without delving too deeply into supply and demand theory, in general a circulation of commodity production and demand occurs to which Marx was referring when he stated that “The entire objection is a bugbear set up by the capitalists and their economic sycophants” (“Capital Vol. 2″ 345). This continuous circulation produced and extensive demand for designers, whether related to industrial production or advertising and promotion (demand generation). In particular, it was the role of the commercial designer to transform meaning, to generate needs based perception that could be applied to a luxury based commodity and in doing so, expand the demand for such products beyond superfluity.
In the early 2oth century, another progression began to take place in the relationship between designer and the commodity; a system of signing commodities that was later referred to as the commodity-sign by French critical theorist Jean Baudrillard. In Contradictions in a Political Economy of Sigh Value, Robert Goldman describes how “modern advertising emerged during a pivotal conjunctural period in American capitalism–a period of transition from a ‘competitive’ capitalism to a ‘corporate’ capitalism.” It is the saturation of what I earlier described as needs based commodities that causes the demand for the commodity sign. The commodity-sign enabled an expansion of the commodity form by extending the realm of exchange value to include signifiers or semiotics that could stand in for use value. The bag has limited value, fixed to use, when it is merely an object for carrying something, but when a sign is added to it (like an Adidas logo and its semiotic value as culturally cool) the value from an exchange standpoint is increased markedly.
Clearly, in order to create value of any sort from a simple sigh there needs to exist a culture of acceptance of sign value within the consumer society as a whole.the ability to establish this acceptance can be traced back to human sociological characteristics as described by Hegel in Phenomenology of Spirit. In the section titled Culture and its Realm of Actuality Hegel explores the idea that the individual’s association to culture and divisions of class quantifies one’s worth. His theories focus on four elements, variously contextualised and interpreted, both justifying the capitalist class system of economic division and also providing a context for a guilt-free consumer society (39-44).
Guy Debord extends and contextualises the social condition that allows for the commodification of signs as described by Hegel and Rosseau (Hegel 39n72), but also explores its actualisation in the late-modern or post-modern society. In Society and the Spectacle, Debord examines societies use of signs and semiotics as commodity forms in and of themselves and as a tool of capitalism in an industrial, and progressively post-industrial, consumer society. As we are entering our post-modern period, the notion of production based on needs,or even formed needs, has begun to be set aside and replaced by a general acceptance of consumption for consumption’s sake. Economically emphasis is placed on consumption as a way to sustain and drive the capitalist system, and it is now generally accepted that needs based considerations are no longer relevant. One merely needs to buy, to consume, in order to feed a thriving economy. This emphasis can be seen, for example, in virtually all speeches or statements to come out of the White House media regarding economic issues where it seems consumption has become synonymous with economy (White House). Socially, it is the spectacle as described by Debord that drives this consumerism based on the sign.
The spectacle cannot be understood either as a deliberate distortion of the visual world or as a product of the technology of the mass dissemination of images. It is far better viewed as a weltanschauung that has been actualized, translated into the material form–a world view transformed into an objective force. (12,13)
This consumerism driven by the image or commodity-sign is built on, and takes advantage of, an existing human condition. In a social society that is based on human relationships and interaction with others, there can be seen a growing paradox. As industrialisation and the consumer society have created a separation of individuals, the spectacle has sought to remedy that and create consumer demand for inclusiveness(22). The designer plays an important role in this by helping to form the meaning to which individuals can identify and consume a form of socialisation. When someone buys an identifiable designer product they are paying not just for the product but to be associated with that identity, and as such, to be accepted as part of a social, if disparate, group. the paradox exists where, as Debord says;
The phenomenon of separation is part and parcel of the unity of the world, of a global social praxis that has split up into reality on the one hand and image on the other. Social practice, which the spectacle’s autonomy challenges, is also the real totality to which the spectacle is subordinate. (13)
This is creating a cyclical growth where the spectacle as remedy for social dissociation is perpetuating it and in doing so, extends the commodification of socialisation.
While it could be argued that the social dissociation has created a new need to be remedied by consumption, in the western post-modern society it is generally accepted that consumption is no longer needs driven, but rather is wants driven. However, it is important to recognise that although the commodity value is no longer tied to use value, production plays no less a role in today’s modern consumer society. In fact due to the spectacle’s fodder for and ever-expanding consumer society, production actually increases.
As one who contributes to forming the commodity , both the physical aspects of the object and the visual aspects of the commodity-sign, the designer is inextricably tied to the symptoms of the system and must take responsibility for their role. Industrial designers create a physical aesthetic that seemingly morphs continually, not based on the demand for change or improvement but based on the commodity form’s need to create new demands. This essentially aesthetic change is often compounded by the addition of a creation of false nee, combining to form an object that is perceived to surpass in value an already existing object. The toothbrush is replaced with the electronic toothbrush, which is replaced with the one that has a built-in timer and better ergonomics, which is replaced with the model that has a variety of vibration settings or the deluxe that also includes highly advanced plaque removal tentacles. The architect and planner develops a way to produce as many houses as cost effectively as possible while offering all the latest modern conveniences that any new home buyer must have. However, the consumer isn’t aware that they need this product because it isn’t a real need, it’s a created need and as such they must be informed and convinced of this new need. Here the communication designer uses signs or semiotics to convince the consumer, not just of the new need, but also why identifying with this particular commodity-sign is better than with another. Using branding and socio-cultural signs, the communication designer develops trust, allegiance, and social acceptance on the part of the consumer thereby making them receptive to the message.
If one accepts that the continued growth in consumption is not sustainable, and as a designer, one accepts responsibility for contributing to this increased consumption, what options are available to the designer in the future? If we accept that further participation in the commodity form, as it currently exists, is not an acceptable option in a new sustainable and equitable global society, what will be the role of the designer? Through the continued design of objects, physical spaces and community, information and eduction design, and a redirection of motivation in the use of semiotics and signs, the designer can help to shape a future that is just and sustainable.
For industrial designers a focus needs to be placed on a retreat from the design of what has been termed “marginal utility”, where an objects value is no longer use oriented (Ewen 90), and instead focus on the development of products that specifically fit the needs of individuals both today and in the years to come. It is no longer acceptable to design obsolescence into a product. Consideration must be given to source material, potential for future modification of existing objects and the ability to recycle parts where necessary. The design and development of systems of sustainable energy generation, both large scale and on an individual level, is an area of research that could offer successes, both commercially and from the standpoint of resource sustainability. From the context of a relocalised society, one could envision the role of industrial designer as that of an artisan or craftsman, adapting to the needs of the community and fulfilling those needs in creative and utilitarian ways.
Rather than the design and development of “spectacular housing” as Debord puts it(111), the planner and architect could be looking at ways of creating more sustainable homes and communities. In fact, this is one area of design that already seems to be taking an active and forward looking approach to the design process, an area where the participants seem to be leading the sustainability movement with foresight. This can be seen both in architecturally stunning homes that are not just sustainable but also beautiful (Wilhide) and also in the movement to develop and design communities around sustainable practices (James & Lahti). From small-scale considerations like incorporating passive solar energy into housing designs to large-scale design of community systems, taking into consideration everything from waste management to food security and transportation in a post-carbon era, the architects and planners are fortunate in that their role seems clear and attainable.
The information designer also has the potential to help shape future direction through the dissemination of alternative information and the education of the local and global community. This task is without question a daunting one as the control of information is progressively being held in fewer hands who continually wield more power and whose agendas may run directly counter to those of any movement toward a more sustainable and less commodity driven model (Herman & Chomsky 3-25). However, the potential to disseminate information via the internet, whether through blogs, anti-establishment websites, or as yet unknown mediums is clearly on the rise and ther is also growing interest in smaller independent print publications as well. It should be acknowledged that there is a greater attention to sustainability issues within traditional media like publishing, and books such as Eco by Elizabeth Wilhide provides examples of how to use communication design to further a message and exist within a commercial context.
The redirection and motivation in the use of semiotics and signs could be seen from the context of operating within the capitalist commodity form, as a form of subversion or, operating outside it, as a form of deconstruction. Either way, the commodity form as it exists under the control of corporate entities will not co-operate with a motivation that is not first and foremost profit driven and, in fact, they are legally bound not to participate in any such action that might negatively impact the financial bottom line (Bakan 35-38). Subversion from within the corporate system requires a discretion that would influence the extent to which using signs or semiotics could actually impact the message. With a strong filter system in place, any subversive particulate matter getting through would be of little consequence. The best practice would be to approach it openly from outside the system. Alternatives to the corporate realm do exist, though the going may be tough. Designers can look toward private or non-profit organisations as alternatives and try to align themselves with fair and sustainable enterprises. Helping form meaning through the use of semiotics could be like beating the big boys at their own game. If one could use this in order to create greater awareness of the issues and shape a form of socialisation and cultural identity to which the consumer society would choose to participate, the designer could in essence use the commodity-sign to bring down the commodity form.
There is a vast array of possibilities for the designer who wants to contribute to formative change toward a positive future, but first and foremost, the role of the future designer must surely be that of awareness, conscientiousness, and responsibility. If designers educate themselves about the system in which they participate and the implications it has for society, and if they consider aspects of unsustainable consumption, environmental degradation and social inequity, they will ensure they place the well being of society before their own personal success as interpreted in the postmodern consumer society. And finally, if designers choose to take responsibility for their actions and their industry, they can be nothing if not impelled to participate in the formation of positive change toward a new sustainable and equitable global society.
Bakan, Joel. The Corporation. The pathological pursuit of profit and power. Toronto: Penguin, 2004.
Debord, Guy. The Society of the Spectacle. New York: Zone Books, 1995.
Ewen, Stuart. Captains of Consciousness. Advertising and the social roots of the consumer culture. New York: Basic Books, 2001.
Goldman, Robert. Contradictions in a Political Economy of Sign Value. Current Perspectives in Social Theory. Greenwich, CN: JAI Press, 1994. <http://www.lclark.edu/~goldman/goldframe.htm>
Hegel, G.W.F. Spirit: Chapter Six of Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit. Ed Daniel El Shannon. Indianapolis: Hackett, 2001.
Herman, Edward S. and Chomsky, Noam. Manufacturing Consent. The political economy of the mass media. New York: Pantheon, 1988.
Marx, Karl. Capital: A Critique of Political Economy. Vol. 1. New York: Penguin, 1990.
Marx, Karl. Capital: A Critique of Political Economy. Vol. II. Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1978.
White House. Jobs and Economy. <http://www.whitehouse.gov/infocus/economy/>
Wilhide, Elizabeth. Eco. The essential sourcebook for environmentally friendly design and decoration. London: Quadrille, 2002.
In 1968 Eddie Adams captured a singular image whose content and meaning would reverberate throughout the world. Indirectly it had an impact on the lives of millions and, it could be argued, hastened a wars conclusion and influenced future foreign and domestic policy internationally. While the photographer and the name of the image may mean little to most, the image itself has been forever etched in the minds of a generation. Saigon, as the photograph is titled, stood out in an era of singular images when print media prevailed over television and the photojournalist was perhaps the most influential individual in the media establishment of the day.
In today’s modern news and information paradigm, there is a general acceptance that the public has more access to information than ever before. 24 hour news broadcast channels like CNN, Fox and BBC all claim to offer live, current and in depth analysis of the most important and ever-changing events of our time. In fact, the prevalence of these new media enterprises has only led to a decline in information dissemination and a narrowing of the news media’s standards and self-assigned purview. This becomes strikingly apparent when looking specifically at the coverage of armed conflicts. If one contrasts characteristics such as mis en scene, systemic limitations, and censorship in the modern media paradigm with that of the earlier print and image based information era, it can be seen that the decline of photojournalism and the singular image has created a vacuum in news media and information dissemination. This vacuum has resulted in a general public, far less informed, and more inclined toward the shallow reading and superficial valuation of information.
What makes Eddie Adams’ photograph so interesting when viewed in the context of a comparison of the two media paradigms is that both still and video were equally represented at the time of the event, yet it is the photograph, the singular image, that stands out in the minds of the public. When General Loan executed the Vietcong prisoner, he did it under the gaze and thorough coverage of a large media group that included film, television, and print journalists. Though people may have seen the film footage, watched the coverage on television or read about it in the newspaper, it is the image that is seared in the memory of those who are aware of the event. Why is this? A closer examination of the photograph will expose a number of visual elements that can clearly be seen as contributing to the photographs lasting impact on the viewer. The primary subjects in the image are in an area of shadow cast in the foreground while the background, in bright sunlight is overexposed and washed out, bringing particular focus of attention to the subject area. Directional cues move the eye to the primary subject of the victim. These include the eyes of General Loan and the other soldier looking toward the victim, the arm of General Loan pointing directly at the head of the subject, and the perspective lines of the buildings and road leading to the victim. Contrasting facial expressions on the three individuals compels the reader to look back and forth, trying to make sense of elements and find greater meaning in the image than might be seen in a superficial viewing. It is immediately apparent why the victim’s face expresses such profound anguish, but one is left to ask why General Loan’s expression is so casual or indifferent and the other soldier’s expression appears to be one of excited aggression. Aspects of the above reading of Eddie Adams’ photograph begin to shed light on the influence of mis en scene on the impact of the photograph.
The construction of mis en scene can be seen as being influenced by three important contributors; the recorder (meaning the photographer, filmmaker, videographer, etc), the viewer and, in some cases, the subject. Whether a photographer or a videographer, the recorder uses a variety of visual (and audio, in the case of the videographer) cues in order to create impact and compel the viewer to participate in the process of creating meaning. Beyond some of the visual cues already described, pattern, repetition, depth of field, and emotive subjects to name a few, all re-enforce the importance of mis en scene in facilitating the recorder with a capacity to form meaning. But the image specifically causes the viewer to do something that film or video actually inhibits. This singular image causes the viewer to give a deeper reading: to consider, to contemplate and to analyse what lies before them in order to make sense of the meaning or message. In fact, the viewer, in their interpretation of the image, is actually contributing to its meaning. When one looks at the dichotomy of meaning, suggested by the photographer and interpreted by the viewer, it is interesting to consider that in many cases it’s the viewer who invests more time in the process.
Unlike the photograph, at 24 frames per second for film and 29.97 for NTSC broadcast, it is impossible for the viewer to even begin to process the information being displayed before them.
“Nonstop imagery (television, streaming video, movies) is our surround but when it comes to remembering, the photograph has the deeper bite. Memory freeze-frames; its basic unit is the single image. In an era of information overload, the photograph provides a quick way of apprehending something and a compact form for memorizing it.” (Sontag 23)
The inability of the viewer to process details, and the lack of time to contemplate, creates an emotional disconnect, a sense that, as the viewer, one is no longer a participant in the forming of meaning. However, the photograph and television coverage are not necessarily mutually exclusive. In the afterword of Witness in Our Time, photographer Ken Light describes his early exposure to the field of photojournalism during the Vietnam War as the impetus for picking up a camera professionally.
“Every night I saw the war up close on television, and the next day I could look more deeply at the images in the morning newspaper—like Eddie Adams’ photograph of a Vietcong terrorist being shot point-blank or Nick Ut’s photo of a Vietnamese girl napalmed by by friendly fire.” (191)
Finally, one must consider the participation of the subject in forming meaning. Whether a victim of war or a perpetrator, there is an awareness, even if on some obscure level, that as the subject they are part of what the late Guy Debord called ” The Spectacle” and, as such, the subject experiences a conflict. There is an understanding that the photograph will tell their story in a way they cannot, for as Debord states, the spectacle “is a social relationship between people that is mediated by images”. While in this context, the contribution to meaning is empowering, it can also be demoralising, as “the individual who in the service of the spectacle [...] is in fact the opposite of the individual” (Debord 12, 39). When Fazal Sheikh wrote of photographing victims in a refugee camp he said that he worked with the subject to “construct the image together” and later wrote the following in describing his experience with victims of rape at another camp(156).
“I have always been troubled by the notion that a person becomes the subject of a photograph simply because they have been raped. It is not the sum total of who they are. For their part, the women understood that the images and their stories would be shown in public, and they still insisted upon speaking out.” (158)
As viewers we often sense our relationship with the subject, we can read the meaning they provide as a form of communication, as though they wre speaking directly to us.
The process of acquisition, dissemination and representation of visual information is also impacted differently when contrasting the independent photojournalist and the singular image with the broadcast network and the continuing stream of video coverage. Each have certain innate characteristics that impact the above processes, however, these systematic limitations have a far greater impact on broadcast network coverage. Specifically, limitations such as finances, equipment (including support staff), and the very nature of the media form, have the greatest impact on broadcast coverage. On first glance one would assume that from a financial standpoint the large broadcast corporations would have a substantial advantage in areas of acquisition, dissemination and representation of information, but this isn’t necessarily the case. As a corporate entity, the broadcast companies primary responsibility is to maintain and improve shareholder value (Bakan 37). As such, if viewership and advertising can be maintained with a minimum of investment in frontline coverage and investigative reporting, said coverage will be constrained. This can result in centralisation fo broadcast coverage to regional centres, a reduction in staffing foreign correspondents and camera crews, and a greater tendency to accept and regurgitate material supplied from government. In contrast, the independent photojournalist, who typically works on a shoestring budget, also has fewer expenses, leading to greater independence. As a result of this freedom, they tend to enter areas less accessible and invest more time in the investigative process (Meiselas 102, 103). This is often not a viable option for the broadcast corporations. Equipment, or lack thereof, enables the independent photojournalist to access areas and subject matter that is not available to a large broadcast camera crew (which sometimes include video and audio personnel, on air personality, translator and security). this tradition of the independent photographer can be traced back to as early as the Crimean War and the work of photographers such as Felice Beato. The singular image continued to thrive during the Vietnam War with the work of people like Larry Burrows, Don McCullin and Eddie Adams (Hirsch 101, 334, 335). Today that work continues, unfortunately, finding a venue for their work has become more difficult and alternative publications, such as books and exhibitions, are being considered as alternatives.
the very nature of teh media form itself has a great impact on coverage and eventual content. Broadcast networks are for whatever reason focused primarily on immediacy. Event coverage, even within the paradigm of the 24 hour news channel, seem to only focus on a shallow reading of any given situation, reporting the equivalent of a headline (and maybe first paragraph) and then repeating it every hour on the hour. This can be concurrently attributed to the earlier mentioned financial constraints and an apparent public preference to this format, ant least on television. The result is an additional filter on the production of investigative journalism. On the other hand, the independent photojournalist is not as influenced by these factors, and while they may not always see their work picked up for publication (“Beyond Words”), the subject has been covered. In broadcast, the need for the sound bite and 60 second clip exclude the more thorough coverage altogether. Bureaucratically speaking, it is reasonable to assume that a large multilevel organisation will result in a selective filtration of, in this case, visual media, something and independent photojournalist would not as readily be subjected to (though the material might). Considerations such as finance, cultural or regional interests, political or ideological leanings, and self-interest all play a role in the bureaucratic nature of large corporate media organisations (Klein 174). While these bureaucratic characteristics are part of the corporate media form they are also the leading cause of censorship.
The issue of censorship is being influenced by both internal and external forces and both the independent photojournalist and the broadcast corporation are affected to varying degrees. For the purpose of this discussion, censorship is any considered decision to take action to limit the quantity or nature of information and its public accessibility. Internal censorship, which might also be called self-censorship, can occur when the independent photojournalist makes a decision about that to photograph. David Douglas Duncan has said that “I have one basic principle, I have never once photographed the face of a dead trooper”, suggesting a moral line that he would not cross. This is echoed somewhat more contemplatively by Don McCullin who said “There is always the danger of seeing things in a beautiful composition. You want to be aware that sometimes you are being offered images of beauty, which are in fact, images of ugliness and death” (“Beyond Words”). But are photojournalists immune to the socio-political predispositions that might also influence what photographs they take? If we look back at Ken Light’s earlier quite regarding Eddie Adams’ photograph, he refers to the victim as a “terrorist” rather than a less inflammatory term such as soldier or simply Vietcong, and photographer Philip Jones Griffiths suggested that “99 percent of all journalists in Vietnam approved of the war” (qtd. in Hirsch 334). It’s hard to imagine these predispositions not impacting, at least to some degree, the independent photographers decision-making process.
Due to their ability to project information so widely and to compile and filter that information, the corporate broadcast network has the most profound impact on the dissemination of information. While financial considerations may inhibit coverage in order to save money, what defines censorship here is the decision to manage coverage for the purpose of controlling information. Though external pressure on the corporate broadcast network exists, it is difficult to classify as external censorship because as an independent entity, it makes the ultimate decision regarding how to act under that pressure. The exception to this is where the international broadcast corporation is required to self-censor in order to maintain approval to operate or where there is outright censorship of transmission (FlorCruz). External censorship pales in comparison to the large news corporations own self-censorship and, while the agenda of these news broadcast networks may often be aligned with government, it is that private corporate agenda that directs the censorship through selection and omission. The corporate broadcaster will moderate and control coverage for two primary and interrelated reasons; political ideology and corporate profit for themselves and their parent companies. The interconnected web of corporation ownership means that a media corporation is typically only one part of a larger corporate entity that may include any number of other financially motivated operations. As such, the media component will impact the selection and omission process (Herman & Chomsky 2-14). The very fact that media corporations are for-profit organisations dictates that their political ideology will be conservative, as to undermine such an ideology would inevitably undermine the news corporation’s primary objective of generating profit. As mentioned earlier, the independent photojournalist’s work will not always survive the media filter, but what makes the corporate news domination so pernicious is that it has the power to restrict even the most primary acquisition of information.
The decline in photojournalism and the relative impact of the singular image has been superseded by the power and ubiquity of the television broadcast news corporations. A media form that encouraged the individual, both as photographer and reader, to form layers of meaning, to consider, and to contemplate, has been relegated to small specialty media. The new mainstream is the 24 hour news broadcast, expansive in its dissemination but narrow in its scope and meaning. It remains to be seen whether there is still a place for the independent photojournalist and the singular image in a society inured to the rapid bombardment of audiovisual overload. The time may come again, as people reach a certain saturation point, when they feel a need to sit, to consider, and to quietly give meaning to the singular image.
Beyond Words. Producers Greg Kelly, Eric Foss. CBC, 2005.
Bakan, Joel. The Corporation: the pathological pursuit of profit and power. Toronto: Penguin, 2004.
Debord, Guy. The Society of the Spectacle. New York: Zone Books, 1995.
FlorCruz, Jaime. China censors CNN SARS report. 15 May 2003. CNN International. 20 November 2005
Herman, Edward S. & Chomsky, Noam. Manufacturing Consent: The political economy of the mass media. New York: Pantheon Books, 1988.
Hirsch, Robert. Seizing the Light: A history of photography. Boston: McGraw Hill Higher Education, 2000.
Klein, Naomi. No Logo: taking aim at the brand bullies. Toronto: Vintage Canada, 2000.
Kight, Ken, ed. Witness in Our Time: Working lives of documentary photographers. Washington & London: Smithsonian Institution Press, 2000.
Meiselas, Susan. “Central America and Human Rights.” Light 102-103.
Sontag, Susan. Regarding the Pain of Others. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2003.