Reflection on Visual Networks: Flickr and Photosharing (chp 4)

This week’s reflection is over Guy Merchant’s ‘Visual Networks and Photosharing’ chapter. Something I took away from the chapter is that it attracted me that he wrote up the whole twenty or so pages all focused on Flickr, using an enormous amount of examples and even taught you how to use the photosharing site step by step. I have used Flickr before, but it was definitely a learning experience to see someone explain to me what exactly is happening socially, educationally, emotionally when I am posting and commenting on photos.

Social networking sites are, to me, what define this as the future. No longer are people trapped in a social sphere of people they are able to meet in person, but now you can immediately talk and share with people in various timezones, across the world. Flickr is such an interesting example, as any more visually focused networks are because it’s such an easy form of learning. You are looking at people’s photos from all over the world, you can get a sense of where they live and how different, or similar, it is to your own space. Global citizenship is slowly becoming the norm as we break past isolationism. It’s simply too easy now to know and interact with people from everywhere.

What has always attracted me to social networking sites was the ability to control how much you are engaging. Merchant talks about this idea as why a lot of these sites flourish, users can be lightweight engagers or they can completely delve into the subjects. It’s not simply one place that you can spend all of your time either, there are a number of social media apps and such that people use regularly throughout the day. I wake up and immediately become a part of at least four networking spheres before I even leave for work. I spend just a couple minutes on each, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, etc, but it’s always a varied interaction. This type of interaction also allows for me to have different dimensions of social practice. I can be having three totally different conversations via Snapchat, Facebook, and text with the same people.

Merchant also wrote about the Recognition Effect, the positivity that is felt when someone is acknowledged by other people, specifically here about comments and uploads to Flickr. His graffiti albums got a lot of attention, from both within and outside of that community. People post, and ironically blog, mainly to gain attention and recognition. Posting about your presence on social media and having that attention focused on you, even just by a few people can have a positive influence on how you’re feeling and your social capacity.

Merchant categorized a few ways that photosharing can be a learning experience in the following. Learning through seeing, reflection, about an image, and about multimodality.

He brought up an interesting point that you can actually learn through tagging and categorizing on sites like Flickr. A lot of these sites will show you related tags and other tags that normally accompany the one you’re looking at. It allows for people to make these connections as well. I utilize the blogging site Tumblr often for my social needs, so I looked at the tagging system there as well. I put in something simple, Video Games, and out popped recommendations like Overwatch, Pokemon, Xbox. Someone could learn a lot about association by looking through tagging systems on these types of sites, clicking through and looking at the various results.

Reflection is perhaps the most obvious way of learning from photosharing, as commentary and reevaluating are easy ways to engage with the learning process as you learn about the image. Reflecting and learning about the image can be done by looking at context, which is one of the most important parts of images. The questions about who took this picture, and why can often answer a lot of information.

Merchant’s ideas about multimodality make a lot of sense even outside of photosharing. There is no exclusively visual site. Every site you go to has some other element, audio, commentary, etc. Flickr, while it is a photo hosting site, allows for simply commentary, but also looks at things like geotagging, what type of camera was used, all kinds of auxiliary information.

Before this, I had not truly looked into the educational benefits that could be gained from sites like Flickr, I always simply associated them with social media, but as I continue to explore during my course, social media is an educational tool and a very useful one at that.


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