As a first step I look back on the evolution of the photographic image in relation to traditional paintings. There are some intriguing parallels between man’s response towards the emerging new medium of the late 19th century – analog photography- and the digital media of the early 21st century. There are also some similarities between the climate of the social, cultural environment of our times and the era which followed the Enligthment and gave birth to photography and to a New World order.
By the end of the first decade of the 21st century advanced media technology completely reshaped our understanding and expectations of visual communication, while science, the cradle of this digital age has layed down the foundation of an entirely new course for human evolution towards an non organic life form.
There were in both of the above mentioned periods two major forces advancing side by side, but at different speeds. Technology and humankind’s awareness of the new reality that was upon us.
During the digital revolution – late 20th, early 21st century- the previously known activities of photography - creation, distribution and experience - has been stripped down to the basic concept of camera obscura. The application of micro-chip technology, which has made it possible to replace the light sensitive film with an array of light sensitive electronic sensors to capture the subject, has converted the photographed image into the new, non-material world of binary codes. One of the new features of the dawn of cyber reality was the unlimited, identical photographic reproduction of any given place and moment in time which could be viewed by millions instantly and simultanously, continents apart.
The mass production and consumption of digital cameras has democratized photography to the point where, there was an overload of imagery. This amplified deprived responsiveness towards deeper, embedded meanings in the synthetic digital images, which created a new dillema, a conflict of the mind. The new digital image largely surrendered to the never satisfied consumer mind and became the glamorous slave of narcissism.
It’s this never ending chain of desire, the endless pursuit of happines, that the new imagery fed. The synthetic imagery of commercials sold us a perfect hyper reality, which brought man further away from his natural states.
Since the very beginning of the digital era the validity and position of photography has been questioned as no one really knew what to trust anymore. Image manipulation became a child’s toy and at once the fundamental belief, or misbelief if you like, that the photograph, the straight medium is showing an unaltered reality, has been at last shattered for good.
Once we think about it, I believe anyone could come to the obvious conclusion, that at the end, the reason why photography has lost its credibility has very little to do with digital cameras or software developments, or with technology itself.
It is a cliche, but it is not the tool we should blame, but the hand that uses it. To be exact, it is the human mind, the state of human consciousnes where the problems lie.
In their day to day lives the individuals of the consumer societies of the 21st century around the world had been too pre-occupied with their lives and had little or no interest at all to develop the vital understanding of all the technology they used and on which they were becoming increasingly dependent. This shortsightedness created a gap between man and technology, which resulted in a highly instable status quo between the mind and its creation. Tension was building up all around the world. Fear, greed, narcissism, intolerance towards each other’s beliefs, violence were flourishing in this environment and I think this has created an interesting paradox.
Since Sir Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web in 1991 the world has been connected more than ever before by the means of internet and by the fast growing mobile communication. The fast information exchange has greatly boosted up all the scientific researches and has put technology on steroids. The world was just a mouse click away as computers were everywhere. New fields as nano technology, neuro science, robotics and Artificial Inteligence were no longer far away science fiction terms. They were announcing the arrival of a new era, the Post-human digital age.
It has never been easier to obtain any kind information for individuals, regardless of skin color, age, sexual preferences, religions or geographical locations and yet instead of getting closer to some sort of an Utopia where people are becoming more inteligent and tolerant, use their technology in harmony with nature and to the benefit of the world, mankind did what mankind usually does; It found new ways to misuse the new tools in the old fashion and then blamed technology and science for all the trouble.
In early December 2010 Wikileaks opened up Pandora’s box by uploading some classified diplomatic correspondence between foreign governments and diplomats. These information leaks did not change the world, not on the surface. They caused a great upheaval, but the significance of this event for me within the framework of this thesis is not in the sensation of all the secrets that surfaced, but in the strategy, in the infinite power of the World Wide Web to store and distribute information.
The US acted on the most predictable and the most outdated manner. The ferocity of their reaction and the decision to wage the first Information War on the Internet was the sign of the pittyful agony of an overgrown system, crashing under the weight of its own bureaucracy.
However, this is in my opinion an interesting phenomenon which builds on the original concept of internet; decentralised fast information exchange, which is everywhere and nowhere at the same time.
One must see the irony of all this, since the roots of the Internet reach back to the 1960s when the US military invested into the robust, fault-tolerant, and distributed computer networks. The funding of this network by the National Science Foundation, as well as by private funding for other commercial interests, led to worldwide participation in the development of new networking technologies, and to the merger of many networks. The commercialization of what was by then an international network in the mid 1990s, resulted in its popularization and incorporation into virtually every aspect of modern human life. Since 2009, an estimated quarter of Earth's population used the services of the Internet.
By the end of the first decade of the 21st century, news reporting has began to shift towards an interactive and semi-public domain. Published throughout the World Wide Web, based on the Wikipedia and Facebook formula. News items were edited and updated by a mixed team of progressive journalists and by the public. The frequent use of Twitter and other web based blogs has aided the development of a more participatory, interactive form of news reporting. Eventually, as the digital awareness spread all around the world, more and more news agencies had adapted and updated their core activities. Ipads and all sorts of other pc tablets and mobile communication devices were taking over the traditional newspapers by 2011. The information within the news items gained extra dimensions by this shift. News reporting was no longer a one way communication. The articles, which were published online, became hubs of interactive links to online communities, chat rooms and connections to online databases and media servers. The inviduals or participants of any events could give live updates by uploading video footages in real time to these media servers, using services such as youtube and vimeo effortlessly from their smart phones.
The toolkit of professionals also has been reduced in size. There was no longer any need for an entire film crew to be present nor for editing studios.
Reporters carrying a laptop, a digital camera as the Canon 5DMII and an Iphone had everything that was needed to do their job faster and with the same or better quality, than before. This increased their mobility and allowed them to get closer to the action or to build a more personal contact with their surroundings.