Digital natives – the future of photography.

Becoming aware of the water we swim in and how it leads us to the future of photography….

What is this ‘Digital Age?’

The following ages allow us to understand the development into the digital age:

  • Agrarian/agricultural age: crops and advances in crop science.
  • Industrial age: mass production and industrialisation.
  • Digital age: information.

Digital images are made in code, such as music and videos. We cannot differentiate what is what by looking at this code – we can only tell by the title – it is all information. Its how we read that information or how a machine reads that information that determines it into something else.

The digital age is not just about having information – it’s about the ability to share it, easily find it and produce the information ourselves, how we interact with it.

The iPhone is a good representation of this digital age as it contains all those things – we can record, share, telephone, browse, everything from one single device. A representation of the convergence of media.

During the agrarian age, to listen to music you would have travelled to go and see them. In the industrial age we would have to go and buy a record. In the digital age we can discover the music from right where we are.

We are the first era who through our whole lives will experience the digital age. No one quite knows how its going to pan out.

The digital age is an age in which we can easily find, share and consume information via linked digital devices.

Links are incredibly important with relation to the digital age – our digital devices are linked.

Who inhabits the ‘Digital Age’?

We all do through choice or not – we are all in the digital age, with an ever increasing number falling into the category that is digital natives. We are all digital natives.

“…born after 1980, when social digital technologies, such as usenet and bulletin board systems, came online. They all have access to networked digital technologies. And they all have the skills to use those technologies.” – John Palfry and Urs Gesser.

Not everyone born after 1980 is a digital native – we have to have the skills and access to these technologies in order to use them.

Noriko Yamaguchi – performance artist. Keitai Girl – covered her body in a full suit of mobile phone parts which were interactive, she could receive calls. Representative of the digital native in Japan. The suit says that we are surrounded – a barrier. We can communicate with the suit but not with her, we are communicating with their chosen technology.

We write something and it gets turned into something completely different – information, and at the other end gets translated back again eg. emails. When we are artists, is there something lost in this translation? Things have to be converted back into something that we understand.

Anna Malagrida – ‘Christina’ 2000. Television spectators – photographed her friends being ‘absorbed by the tv’.

Gabriella Herman – ‘Bloggers’. A large series of photographs of a number of bloggers in photography, art, fashion. The computer screen is lighting the subject, pulling them in.

Digital Settlers

People born before 1980 but who have embraced the digital age and have chosen to live a digital life. People who are not shunning digital devices but embracing them – they see the possibilities of the digital age and they are becoming part of it. They have had to adapt to this digital age but they are not as good as it as we are.

Guthrie Lonergan – ‘Myspace into playlist’ 2005. A collection of peoples Myspace introductory videos.

Technology has just become a tool, something we just have, we don’t even think about it. The easier it is to use, the better.

Digital Immigrants

Born before the existence of digital, these people have adapted to some aspects of a digital life, either through choice or necessity. More and more, people are having to join through necessity. Often some don’t have the access to it, or the skills to use it.

So what?

It helps us understand our audience and make us realise the context in which the work we look at is produced, and the work that we are producing.

“One thing about which fish know exactly nothing is water, since they have no anti-environment which would enable them to perceive the element they live in” – Marshall McLuhan.

We can think of ourselves as fish, and the water is the digital age – we are here as students to be taken out of water to learn from the outside. When we enter back into the water, we understand what it is about. We can’t understand if we have ever only been in water.

Digital Issues

  • Copyright.
  • Validity.
  • Computers taking our jobs.
  • Privacy.
  • Literacy.
  • Audiences – not everything we produce will be of a similar nature.
  • Identity – “Grand Theft Auto IV” a breakdown between understand real life and game life. What is online and offline? Do we have an online life? Is it different from our real life? Is Facebook and Twitter and digital representation of our life? Or is it our real life? “Popular internet designs of the moment – not the internet as a whole – tend to pull us into life patterns that gradually degrade the ways in which each of us exist as an individual” – Jaron Lanier. Is it easier for us now to be less of an individual?
  • Privacy and publicity – as photographers we want our work to be viewed and out there. These two aspects are important but should not come at the expense of one another, however sometimes they do. Think about the spaces in which we are a professional photographer and the space in which we are ourselves with a personality. Bill Sullivan – taken profile pictures and displayed them in a mirror and photographed them this way or on the screen themselves.

In the agrarian age, we had to remember what people used to look like by memory. In the industrial age, we could refer to photographs. In the digital age, it has never been so easy to change how we represent ourselves. However once something is online, its forever online – very hard to remove something. Whilst you can change your appearance, we can always see before that – a constant trace.

Larson & Shindelman – ‘Geolocation’ 2011. Looked at people’s tweets with tags of where they had been – visited these places and put photos to the tweet.

How much are we willing to reveal publicly?

  • The other 5 billion – people who do not have access to any digital devices or skills to use them. Do not have the infrastructure or the money to afford this technology. 
  • Our tools shape us – “we shape our tools and thereafter our tools shape us” – Marshall McLuhan, ‘Understanding Media’ 1964. People make these devices the way we need then these devices affect us. We can communicate with a global audience – should we?
  • Definitions – we cannot define people by the year they were born in. We are judged at our age as students as people who don’t care or value certain things.

What does this digital age mean for photography?

Film cameras are still being used for art or as an own choice, but mostly are being replaced by the digital sensor.

Richard Nicholson ‘Analog – Last One Out, Please Turn On The Light’, 2006-2011.

Some believe the harder it is to do something, the more rewarding and popular it is. As everything is so easily available, we want what everyone else doesn’t have.

Andreas Muellerpohle ‘Digital Scores 1’, 1995 (after Nicephore Niepce) first image ever made.

We find ourselves in a paradigm shift – a dead end, we don’t quite know where it is going. The first movement in photography was moving away from painting. The second paradigm shift is digital technology and what it is doing for photography. The amount of images we can produce and the ease of making them – the ability to share, edit and connect these images. Images = information.

Photography is going through the same paradigm shift as we are with regards to the digital age.

Photography will be shaped by people like us students.

The hyper-generative – we want people to take part in these activities.

For or Against the digital age?

We now have access to purchase a book teaching us how to deal and manage with the digital age – it has become such a part of our lives that we now have the opportunity how to work with it in our own ways rather than just interacting with it everyday.


~ by victoriasimkissphotography on January 19, 2013.

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