Tutorial with Jonathan Shaw

Two weeks or so before the symposium I spoke with Jonathan Shaw after he tweeted me about his interest in my research and wanted to ask a few questions so that I was on the right track.

I explained to him what I was discussing, but he reminded me that I must really remember that of course archives have been ‘opening’ and ‘digitising’ for a long time. So focussing my argument on the ‘free’ is rather outdated. To which I agree. I feel that I know quite a bit about licensing: how Flickr the Commons doesn’t have any licensing on their photographs making them very public and open; meanwhile Getty Images has a very selective licensing system.

When discussing my arguments about Flickr the Commons and the user engagement with the archive photography, Jonathan reminded me that Flickr’s purpose is to do this. Flickr isn’t a ‘research archive’ although it is an archive in its own right. I thought that this was important and something that I should have really thought about my self: judging the purpose of archives is integral to my argument. I say at the beginning of my talk that commercial archives make profit, so that’s their purpose which in turn shifts how a user looks at it, if they can access it at all without paying. This made me add a line in my talk about purpose and how Flickr isn’t trying to be or replace the archives, but acts as a high resolution back up for them and to engage audiences that may never visit an archive or archive website.

We discussed further about interaction with the archive and what different platforms can offer: I was shown the Everyday Africa tumblr: http://everydayafrica.tumblr.com/ this is a platform which archives a collection of images to portray Africa by Africans. This is very much a user generated archive and not just to catalogue one, like I said Flickr the Commons allows for. Discussing this point about usability and the type of platform is very important: the Library of Congress website is formulaic and mature: tailored for a researcher; whereas Tumblr is more visual, and already accessed by thousands of amateur bloggers. Archiving through Tumblr may also have an affect on how we view things: following the positive depiction of Africa from an archive may really change our opinions.

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