Tyranny of Algorithms, Exhibit Z


God, please save us from the tyranny of algorithms, Type A personality fetish, and their do-gooder programmers. Surveillance capitalism and now science; welcome to the future. 

This is why my only two social media accounts Ello and LinkedIn (plug!) are on private, and that still might not matter. Algorithm economy and culture – even if there is perhaps a little bit of public good in them – might as well be called Creeper Capitalism. How long before a deployed psychological algorithm is involuntary?

There really needs to be effective and enforced privacy laws (and just a better fucking understanding of art and photography) to prevent discriminatory misuse or abuse by government and companies, particularly insurers and employers. But while we were busy playing with the new shiny toy, that train might have left the station.

Gotta Love the Internet

Editorial photo by Paul Ottaviano

Photo I shot in 2008. Used by a French publication in a story about Portland, Oregon.

While doing some matching on Pixsy, I discovered that a photo I shot 8 years ago and put on my late great Flickr profile was used in 2012 by a French publication. The article, as best as my poor French can make out, was about Weird Portland and its so-called hipster culture.

I got a chuckle out of this. It’s funny that a photo I shot so quickly eight years ago, with a Nikon Coolpix of all things, found new life across-the-pond. I also appreciate them giving me attribution and using a photo with a Creative Commons license that gave them permission. If they hadn’t or had infringed an all rights photo, this post would’ve taken on a completely different tone.

Speaking of the photo, I wonder what he is up to now?

The More Things Change…

Is “new media” becoming just like the old?

The People’s Platform: Taking Back Power and Culture in the Digital Age

This is a book I’m currently reading and I’m recommending it to you. It’s a topic worth the time and thought. Certainly it’s a valuable discussion to have given current circumstances for the Internet and its future.

If you, an artist or creator of content -professional, student, or amateur – are wondering if your digital work can ever be more than a devalued commodity for the large benefit of someone else, this book is very much worth your time. I think that developers, investors, business owners and common users can benefit from such reading, as well.

If you haven’t thought on this topic at all, it’s still relevant to you. Perhaps more so.

Not an affiliate link to Amazon.

Why I Broke Up with Instagram

To be blunt, I eventually found it to be a bore and not something that benefited my business. No, there doesn’t have to be a marketing angle to everything. But if it’s no longer helping me creatively, and the professional or financial impact is innocuous at best for those of us not a celebrity or big corporation, and if there is not genuine social currency then what is the point? I appreciated the support I received from some individuals on IG, but time is indeed precious and it’s time for me to invest it elsewhere.

Too often I hear from other photographers that their social media followers, regardless of the size or number of likes, don’t bring much business, if any, and despite their best efforts or quality, their fans “have not even bought me a cup of coffee.” And that’s the thing, for me IG became something I did while passing brief time at a coffee shop. IG as filler, and cheap empty calorie filler at best. Am I cynical on this? Yes. I’ll own that. But it’s hard for me to admit that it’s anything else.

This is not to say there isn’t some lovely work displayed on IG, there is. It’s just that the photography, professional or amateur, doesn’t resonate with me there. We never go back and look, at least I don’t. It doesn’t stick. And that’s a shame, because there are photos that really should. Perhaps it’s the medium or platform itself and how it impacts people consciously, but that’s something for the ghost of McLuhan to study. To me, it’s a place where people look for the bright shiny object, a sunset photo for example (I love good sunset pics), and they go, “Ooooooo” and press the like button and quickly move on. Then do the same again and again. It feels rote.

Also, just who is really benefiting? I know IG changed their TOS to be more user-friendly but their policy still seems ambiguous. I suppose if it’s okay with NatGeo and Magnum it should also be okay with me, unless they negotiated their own agreements. But that was of small concern.

The larger issue to me is about the return. I think photographers need to start thinking about their participation in this stuff. Or rather, how they’re participating? Why they’re so eager to give away free content on some networks, while only a few people behind the network cash in on that user-generated content?

I understand that some people just like it and think it’s fun, but have the user-generated for profit networks really helped a vast majority of photographers commercially? Perhaps for a well established relative few and possibly a few unknowns, but for noobs that’s like winning the lottery. Maybe the positive outcomes are amorphous, but overall its benefit is highly questionable. I also don’t buy the idea that I have to be on all social networks, just to do it.

In fairness, perhaps some of it is my fault, in that I didn’t put in enough effort on IG. Maybe I’m not leveraging the alleged power of it properly. I do succumb to social media fatigue easily. But that’s just it. If I don’t feel like I can give a network my all and deliver consistent quality content, along with a true emphasis on engagement then I don’t see much point in being there. To continue participating, despite my disinterest, is counter-productive for me and unfair to my followers and others who have liked my work. Eventually my disinterest would show in the work, and then it would be a lie.

If Facebook is the suburb or gated community of the Internet, Twitter the crazy part of downtown, Tumblr or BeHance the faux art colony, and LinkedIn the office park of the Internet, then what is Instagram and others like it? It seems to be the digital inside of a high school locker or an adolescent bedroom wall. While there is some folksy teen dream ideal in that, it’s not something I can feign enthusiasm for. IG was fun and a rejuvenation for a time, much like a dalliance is while on vacation. Similar to an experience like that, good as they are sometimes, it wasn’t meant to last.