I’m getting ready to fly out to Berlin tomorrow to the Culture and Computer Science conference where I will presenting my paper “Annotating the World.” The conference theme is augmented reality and I’m planning on speaking about how photography could be argued as process of augmenting our reality. In essence, I believe that when we view the world through our camera screens we see an enhanced and potentially pre-formed and controlled version of what is in front of us or in the case of remote cameras, what is in front of the camera lens. I believe this makes for an interesting account of how photography operates on us.
I’m really interested in the conference subject matter – the connection of technology to culture – and augmented reality offers so many different paths to think through how we view a mediated world.
Here is my accepted abstract:
Augmented reality is generally understood to be a direct or indirect view of the world supplemented by additional information, data or graphics. It provides an enhancement to our perception of reality, usually in real time. This paper examines how digital photography, with its image-creation based overlays and information, may be understood specifically as a process of perception enhancement. This approach, differing from previous understandings of photography in the analogue age, may offer a new account of how the world is mediated and interfaced.
Digital photography and the resultant convergence of the camera with the cell phone, has created the conditions for exponentially more images to be created. This proliferation of photographs and the ease with which they can be shared across a network has, in turn, radically altered our experience of visual culture and visual communications.
The focus of this paper will be to explore the doxa of image-making interfaces built into the devices we use to produce digital photographs. I argue that these controlling augmentations force us into a perception of the world as being simultaneously a visible reality and a representational object. With the subsequent addition of geo-tags, meta-data along with online social and user generated interactions, digital photographs are no longer simply representations of reality but are perhaps better seen as annotations of a particular kind of imaged reality.
Digital photographic agency and vision is an enhanced and augmented process; one that intelligently organises our perception of reality. Perceived agency is regulated through the alignment of a set of technologies, uses and practices. All of which produce a photographic object that is primarily a socio-technical object. The augmented reality layer, situated onto imaging devices, is therefore an actant located within a socio-technical system. I argue that this augmented layer of image-making interface will inevitably bring alternative cultural practices into being, in the sense that the knowledge required to produce images today is significantly different from the past. This in turn has created a new environment of creation and distribution into which images interface and augmented alternate realities (for example Microsoft’s Photosynth application).
Within the paper I shall examine a three-year participatory photographic project that examines the agency of the photographic image. It does this by considering how making and looking at photographs helps structure people’s relationships with place and with themselves. The project undertakes an analysis of the interactions taking place between space, place and people through photographic image making. It explores the effects of the camera interface and screen on the making of images. Its focus is not to directly address ‘looking at’ and ‘making images’ of places but to consider the affect of seeing place as augmented image through a camera.