Monday, February 4, 2013


Just as the Eskimo has been de-tribalized via print, going in the course of a few years from primitive nomad to literate technician, so we, in an equally brief period, are becoming tribalized via electronic channels.”
-Edmund Carpenter / Marshall McLuhan - Explorations In Communications

Most who do photography today are very aware making images has been revolutionized in process from an analogue to a digital media. To a large extent that change has masked the even greater change photography plays in the culture of our times. Most of what organizes our images is a different media that has not changed picture content, but how we use photography as a communication within the cultural environment.

Photography has over a century old place in our history, but only recently have photos been shared and communicated through the internet as part of every aspect of our daily exchanges between people. In the analogue days of photography what camera users did was a specialty isolated as a hobby or profession in the culture. That distinction and isolation no longer exists with FaceBook, Flickr, Instagram and hundreds of similar media hosts connecting all of us to a world of pictures and much more. News and advertising accessing us through ours and others images - we live in a global museum of pictures of ourselves and the world. Google anything and you find what it looks like in a digital photo on a computer display screen.

The tribalization McLuhan and Carpenter referred to in 1960 has largely occurred in my adult lifetime from the mid’50’s to the present. Photographs as cultural material content
has remained largely the same although improved significantly in image quality over time. What has changed is the role images play in our culture, the global village is now a space well known through photographs. The great varieties of ethnic distinctions in people has diminished in two generations. Everyone today looks like another human being to our younger generations. But of course some old-timers are anxious and fearful their presence has disappeared with their past.

We have known the phrase Global Village for half a century and have realized the technologies of today make the world a smaller place through travel, shipping and communications. But are we aware of the cultural changes. Hardly, as they are evolving in and around is unseen but still apparent and powerful. Some college teachers have noted their students are now different than before, and we call them millennials. But do we of the older generations know them? I could say what does the word ‘gangnam’ mean. You can look it up on Google and you will find: you get ten different breakdowns of the term mostly referring to style. "Gangnam Style" is a Korean neologism mainly associated with upscale fashion and a lavish lifestyle associated with trendsetters in Seoul’s Gangnam district, which is considered the most affluent part of the metropolitan area. In colloquial usage, it is comparable to the English slang terms “swag” or “yolo”. Although half way around the world in a country with a spoken and written language very alien to our own english & european counterparts, its culture has spread into the western world in many ways beyond their Samsung and LG electronic products and Kia and Hyundai automobiles. There are no leaders in Korea intentionally exporting their cultural idioms. It’s just mutual human interest through music and fashions that propel differences around the world.

How we are being tribalized can in part be blamed on new technologies like cell phones and and the internet; but hardware does not explain behavior and culture. The the physical means ideas and concepts are communicated and how that has changed our view of reality influencing how people act and react, is something more. Now we exist as if we really are living in a small village that now encompasses the entire planet, or most of it. The term viral expresses all this occurs instantly, but how it comes about is inexplicable. Something that has universal meaning happens significantly in one place, and its affects spread around the world. The most immediate example was the gang rape on a bus in Delhi, India. The news spread instantaneously well beyond India, and one affect was fear among women. Since that awful rape and death of the victim, women in India and elsewhere are beginning to come out into the open to criticize their society, a typically paternalistic authoritarian but supposedly democratic regime, of its failing half of their population. That story resonates in much of the world and the result is a lessening of the establishment’s power in this “man’s” world, and extending a common populism to another including everyone.

As photographers, is there anything we need to do? No, pictures are like words they are neutral. We just have to be vigilant they are not used intentionally to do harm to others. Culture evolves of its own without much governance. Making laws that inhibit culture has never worked. We just have to live with it and keep it connected to reality as much as possible, supporting that which has a positive meaning to human life. 

Hackers in China Attacked The Times for Last 4 Months

For the last four months, Chinese hackers have persistently attacked The New York Times, infiltrating its computer systems and getting passwords for its reporters and other employees.
After surreptitiously tracking the intruders to study their movements and help erect better defenses to block them, The Times and computer security experts have expelled the attackers and kept them from breaking back in.
The timing of the attacks coincided with the reporting for a Times investigation, published online on Oct. 25, that found that the relatives of Wen Jiabao, China’s prime minister, had accumulated a fortune worth several billion dollars through business dealings.

Really, how can any force silence thousands and thousands of cell-phone users living in every corner of the global village, all talking to each other? There is no security against the talk that fills every village and changes feelings and ideas. Centralized force is becoming absurd, but not defeated. The powers of politics will stir the pot, so let’s be vigilant, so that it does not spoil the stew.

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