The battle between public and private grounds became blurred the second we began to integrate the digital into our lives. The very principles defining the two were rewritten; individuals facing a new form of constant connectedness. With a parting nod to private space, we gained a world of connection at our fingertips. Media practice is quickly shaping the space we immerse ourselves in, with public screens, personal devices, and second screening influencing how the information we absorb and the experience we have in our daily space.
This week we were tasked with capturing a photograph of someone in public that was utilising or interacting with a screen. With 10 minutes in our tutorial, I managed to capture several blurry shots of individuals around campus engaged with personal devices, all the while using my own mobile phone to take the photos. Where are they, you may question?
The activity was designed to evoke conversation surrounding the rights of screen users in public, and more importantly – the rights of street photographers. Questioning our own personal policy surrounding taking and publishing photos of individuals with or without consent, the task made me rethink how I post online, and as a photographer myself – how I determine my process of taking photos of individuals in public, both aware and unaware. In the past, I have photographed individuals without a second thought, and only been restricted to certain publishing and media practice policies when working alongside established corporations and community groups, such as digital content produced for a local church. The conversation in our tutorial has churned may queries and questions directed towards my own media practice, and although I am now aware of my rights as a photographer, and media user – I did not feel posting the photographs of random strangers using media devices would add any more substance to this post, than my own words and realisations from the activity.
What interested me this week in BCM241, was the notion that we have created our own digital cities; public spaces drenched with televisions, digital signage, personal devices – screens. A city plastered in screens. It isn’t only how our physical environment is changing to accommodate for these devices, but how we spend time in these spaces. New obsession William Powers queries this in depth in his book Hamlet’s Blackberry (one I definitely recommend binging). He details our conscious striving to “bring digital connectedness into every available corner of existence and, once it’s there, to make it ever faster and more seamless…” (pp. 14), and how this intentional integration of devices into our personal spaces affects our depth of experiences. The ability of a screen, the size of your palm, can elicit deep emotional notions from a few characters of text, or from seeing an image alongside a caller ID, all the while in a secluded, private space one can feel a deep sense of connection, and imitate a public environment.
The idea that public and private spaces have become void in the creation of a new semi-public begs the question, do our traditional ethics encompass the emerging digital atmosphere and our evolving screened-environments? Have the new ethics employed worked effectively, or are they a limit of our newly-developed public spaces? I’d be invested in exploring further.
Powers, W. (2010). Hamlet’s Blackberry. New York: Harper, pp.12-17.
McQuire, S. (2006). The Politics of Public Space in the Media City. First Monday. [online] <https://minerva-access.unimelb.edu.au/bitstream/handle/11343/34712/67346_politics_final.pdf?sequence=1>