Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Violations

Thanks to [temporarily anonymous] for giving me an Instant Messaging lesson: you were a model of grace, distraction, eloquence, and endurance. You teach me that distraction is only distraction when I adhere too dogmatically to goals, protocols and intentions. In defter hands, distraction is a more expansive mode of conversing.

Thanks also to erinpower for the IM chat. You've got me thinking about the episodes which reveal that privacy works differently online—is something different, is sustained, protected and violated differently. Not that this will be a surprise to some people, but its one thing to theorise it, another to have specific cases to think about. I like the idea that photographs, which many would say 'contain' some of their most intimate, precious moments, are also somehow more immune than text to attacks on privacy and personhood. One can be honest in photographs in a way that one cannot in text. Some forms of honesty require an absence of censorship, or an absence of the need to censor. Photographs allow one to be honest, in this special sense, i.e. without editing or censoring. You can tell all in a photography, so long as the right person is looking. Photos are a different kind of code than written posts, they establish different kinds of relationships with their viewers—the form of relationship varies strongly according to how familiar a viewer is with the life of the blogger-photographer. Photographs are a kind of knowledge which hook up with other forms of knowledge.

But think, too, about a situation where blog text is appropriated without attribution and compare it to one where a photograph is appropriated. Both might be felt as a kind of theft, but if they are also experienced as personal violations, they are different sorts of violations, aren't they? Imagine a photograph of a kiss...you and a friend are kissing. Someone you don't know steals the photo from your photoblog and posts it on their own site. When we imagine the worst from this scenario, what do we imagine? What kind of site steals our photos, what do our photographs sit amongst in the worst case scenario? What text accompanies them? And then, what about our writing? What is the nightmare scenario there, and are they the same types of nightmare? I think they're probably not. Can we say that photographs connect to personhood, to selfhood, differently than does text? Maybe they spin out from the maker differently, one a web, the other a secreted shell. A skin we shed, an egg we incubate and hatch, a nest we build, plummage that we sometimes spread wide.
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