Anthropology and photography in the digital age
Matthieu Guitton (Laval University)
BP Lecture Theatre
Start time:
29 May, 2014 at 11:00
Session slots:

Short abstract:

The Internet and the emergence of virtual spaces have considerably changed the way we can generate, access, store, and analyse images. This panel will explore how these new technologies and new "spaces of life" can alter the use of photography for anthropology.

Long abstract:

Within a few decades, the tremendous technical advances of information technologies, as well as the democratization of use of the Internet and other virtual spaces, have considerably modified the way humans communicate with each other. Incidentally, it has also deeply altered the way anthropologists can gather materials for their studies. This is particularly true for collecting visual materials. Indeed, while classical anthropology field work heavily relies on picture taking, the Internet and social media are emerging places where incredibly large amounts of visual material - pictures and videos alike - are spontaneously displayed by users. As people broadcast themselves, the pictures available on the Internet reflect a drastically different point of view from the one of an academic scholar. Furthermore, online spaces are not solely used to store pictures that document "real life". Online pictures also document the existence of emergent online communities of humans inhabiting virtual worlds. Since online materials can be accessed at any time by anyone and from anywhere, we are witnessing a major evolution of the use of photography in anthropology. For instance, given the multiplicity of choices, strategies of selection of the most appropriate visual materials are coming to the front. While these almost unlimited resources represent a new and fascinating tool for modern anthropology, their use also entails some important practical and ethical challenges. This panel will discuss online visual materials - pictures, online videos, webcams, machinimas, etc. - and will explore what anthropology could become in the digital age.