Flickr Fascination

9 July 2008

On Images and a Little Innovation

The very best images capture something of the movement that brings a moment alive, the idea central to a new understanding. They drag the viewer in and speak to the senses of what has been and what might have been, just beyond the frame. For every fact they leave a promise, an invitation to return later to think again. I mentioned in a previous post how Roy Blumenthal’s artwork on Flickr does just that. Roy offers his electronic paintings under Creative Commons licences, which are superb invitations to revisit, use, reuse and share. But the more I’ve been using Flickr to find the images that populate my posts – that explain, contradict or reinforce what I mean – the more frustrated I’ve grown with its Creative Commons search function.

Flickr is a fantastic resource for any blogger and an endless source of fascination for me. It offers something for everyone, from the truly weird and the powerfully stated to the deeply experimental and the blandly pornographic. That’s the whole point – it draws people in, allows them to share their efforts with those who are likeminded, or who might well become likeminded after a browse or two.

By every indication, Flickr groups, the virtual communities that form around certain styles, subjects and themes, are very much alive and well. As Clay Shirky observed in Here Comes Everybody, even the most ad hoc groups on Flickr serve the valuable function of allowing people to organise themselves without organisations. Photostreams featuring social movements and protest rallies abound.

But that’s also a problem. Ask Flickr to search for images labelled ‘poverty’, for instance, and you’ll soon see countless photos of middle-class white people protesting about conditions in the third world. It’s all a little abstract. You’ll also find the stunning and equally moving photography of Gregory Smith, founder of the Children at Risk Foundation in Brazil, which is a saving grace. Finding an image that speaks to you is a moment to treasure – a precise point in time at which you can learn something valuable. But finding another ‘make poverty history logo’ is a hollow experience. It leaves little else to say.

Thankfully there’s an alternative way of searching Flickr for Creative-Commons-licensed images. When I was speaking on the Everyday Extraordinary Lives Show podcast the other day, Mike Seyfang mentioned to me a web application that’s been around for a while and seems to have quite a few happy usersflickrCC.

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Feeding Your Mind

14 May 2008

Some of the News that’s Fit to Read

RSS Feed IconNews is what you make of it, and not all that’s written is worth reading. Much of the initial reasoning behind this blog was to capture something of the illogic in what passes for news, to question assumptions entrenched in the public domain. Of course that leaves me well open to criticism of my own position, but it’s a risk worth taking if I want to encourage others to re-think and see things again, in different ways. So I’m extending my efforts now to other voices, those saying things that aren’t often heard in precisely the same way.

I’ve always included links to other sites – some deliberately silly, others very serious, most somewhere in between – in the sidebar to offer alternatives and compliments to what I write about. They’ve now been joined by a small selection of news feeds.

If you look towards the bottom of the sidebar you’ll see three new text boxes, carrying what are usually called RSS feeds. There’s some debate about what RSS stands for – Internet development is often so rushed that no-one really pays attention to who names what, and less-than-helpful abbreviations abound. It could stand for Really Simple Syndication, or for Rich Site Summary. But it’s probably just as easy to think of yourself as reading some stuff that comes to you, rather than having to look for it every day.

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Technotes 1.0

22 March 2008

Microreviews from the Realm of Technology

Screen Technology, by rutty, with Creative Commons licenceOne of the more intriguing things about what we vaguely call technology is not what it can achieve, but how we perceive it in many and varied ways. We can embrace change and its sometimes dubious ramifications, take up the new tools of our times, or we can stand back and watch as our expectations shift. We can also shout angrily at the mute gods of permanence, demanding that they bring back what we knew and loved.

Constantly we stand on the daunting threshold of the new.

In that spirit of change I’ve banished last week’s microreviews to the dedicated page. Their counterparts this week, now in the sidebar, were inspired by a range of reactions to technology – my own, of course, and those of people around me. In a follow up to my earlier post on the limits of copyright, I’ve also been reading the emotionally charged work of Andrew Keen, the Cassandra’s Cassandra when it comes to all things participatory on the Internet. In 2006, Keen grouped Larry Lessig, the Stanford law professor who sits on the board of Creative Commons, with those he labelled “intellectual property communists”.

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Who Knows?

19 March 2008

Copyright, Creative Commons and the Limits of Knowledge

Maybe I am Crazy, by I’m Your Pusher, with Creative Commons licenceShare and share alike we’re told as kids, and it’s a pity we don’t always do so as adults. One of the more dubious, and most challenging, features of the Cyber Age is the promotion of intellectual property rights to the commercial extreme. Knowledge has become a commodity, and were it not for projects like Wikipedia and – let’s face it – rampant piracy, few would share the bounty of the times. But we can change that in our own small ways.

Yesterday I licensed the content of this blog under the auspices of the Creative Commons project. The details are at the bottom of the sidebar if you’re interested, and I hope you are.

Creative Commons Licence NotificationI’ve included the notification button here again – just click on it to see the exact conditions of my Attribution Share-Alike licence. Horrible name, I know, but it means that you can use what I write any way you like as long as you state that I created it in the first place. And I’m also asking you to offer the results of any changes under the same licence.

I’m not expecting a general sigh of relief and a rush to quote my material – Heaven forbid! What I’m doing is lending my modest support to a worthy cause.

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