Meditations on Photography and Digital Media
I’m currently working on two things for two courses(my Duke 21st century literacies course, and a required course in my home department) that have me asking myself why I am doing what I am doing. These things are also demanding that I explain my reasons. This post is my mini-through experiment as I start thinking through why I’ve made the choices I’ve made.
DISCLAIMER: You are about to read un-edited thoughts. You have been warned.
While I suggest that the medium of both photography and the digital is light, the way light is used between the two is very different. The message of the photographic medium is stoppage while the message of the digital medium is movement. McLuhan maintained that as new media come into being we will see them cannibalize the older media they are enhancing and/or replace. We have seen this with photography. The movement of photography from being experienced on a piece of metal or paper that might be tarnished or fade over time, to a screen made of moving pixels that contain the illusion of an infinite number of both still and moving images becomes a great playground for understanding what the big changes of digital media are. Specifically, the changes on our environment, expectations, and ways of knowing are most fascinating for me. Further, because both photography and digital media are understood for their memory storage capabilities popularly, and epistemologically they are seen as information storage and processing devices that go above the capabilities of humans on their own, the importance of understanding the move from stillness to movement becomes more important. When we begin to think about it in relation to speed, where photography is still and the digital is movement at light speed, we can begin to get a glimpse of the new potentials that are built into the medium as well as the accidents.
Another difference of the digital versus photography brought on by movement is when things move they can turn into different types of waves.* As such, even though at a base level photography and social media are both light, digital can move between moving images and sound, and can be rendered through seamless dots of color and through sound processors that turn the patterns in the light stream into sound. We can push this so far with our current technology that we can take digitized photographs and turn them into soundwaves. I’ve included a tutorial above that shows a program that does this. Someday when I’m not a poor grad student maybe I’ll be able to purchase the program. I would say 3d rendering is new, but I am not sure it is because of stereographs.
*pseudo-scientific I know, but let’s go with it.
Also of interest: How to Turn a Paper Image of a Record Into a Beautiful Music