Alex Gregg - Study

Alex Gregg
English 4874
Study: Humans and The Technology Experience

Digital Photography as an Instrument of Communication and Means of Sharing Experience

Central Question: With the recent shift in digital photography, how have digital cameras affected our means of communication and shaped our identity and memory?

September 22, 2011

I have never blogged before in my entire life. Why? Because I never had a purpose to start and my life is not all that exciting. In Internet terms, I’m now a total n00b. However, with this blog I have a purpose. I will investigate, analyze and consider how digital cameras come in contact with aspects of the human communication. To look at this study, I must first examine the shifting of roles of cameras in society, molding of an identity on social networking sites, and popularizing Photoshop.

With this blog, I will:
• Investigate how digital cameras come into contact with memories and identity;
• Conduct a study to develop a cogent set of descriptive and normative claims about technology and communication;
• Provide evidence for well-reasoned conclusions regarding how technology might, and perhaps should, shape us and shape our fundamental understanding of what it means to be human.

Photography always also served as an instrument of communication and as a means of sharing experience. When personal photography came of age in the early 20th century, it gradually emerged as a social practice that revolved around families wanting to save their memories of past experiences in material form for future reference or communal reminiscing (Van Dijck 58).

Prior to the arrival of digital products, a majority of appliances were analog based and the cameras used film as the main component for capturing images in a permanent form. This film was processed in a darkroom where only limited alterations could be carried out (LeVant 10). With the onset of digital technology, photography has focused more on digital cameras, which makes use of the digital technology for sufficient capture of photographs. Photos captured in this format can be transferred to a computer and with the use of software program such as Photoshop; the images can be modified to enhance the quality of a picture.

September 29, 2011
Subject: Photoshop

Digital photos that are uploaded to a computer are “collected, preserved, and allow for the conscious retrieval and remembering, the visible recollection, of selected fragments of all the possible memories of past images” (Sobchack 310). It is cataloged and classified into a sort of file cabinet. You know exactly what you will find, because the computer has sorted it into the proper files.

So with this type of filing system, does this mean that we will find the exact photographs that were taken so many years ago? Answer: not if you don’t want to. Through programs such as Photoshop, Picnik, LunaPic, or any other photo editor, you can enhance, filter or alter any image.

Photoshop enables effective editing of photographs and other graphical content with various tools that give the user options for manipulation. Processes that were once done in dark rooms during retouching can easily be done on the computer in real time. These procedures include correction of exposure, hue adjustment, proper sizing and many others and can be executed easily with the offered tools and guidelines. Digital pictures are made up of numerous tiny dots that form images. The way Photoshop works when editing photos, is to isolate selected areas and alter the pixels in the area without disturbing the rest of the picture. (

I have personally used Photoshop quite a lot this semester, as I am currently enrolled in the class,” Design Documents for Print.” It can be tricky to learn, but once you understand the basics, it is an incredibly useful tool. Photoshop enables a novice photographer (like me) to touch up recent photos, but also allows experienced graphic design professionals to create advertisements, logos and marketing pieces.

For all of the benefits of Photoshop, there is some serious negativity that surrounds it. Photo editing software has made any photograph obsolete of the truth. We can no longer look at a photograph as proof or evidence of some experience or event. The increased manipulation of photographic images may suit a person’s need for continuous self-remodeling along with instant communication and bonding.

The image below shows the before and after Photoshop product of Madonna for an advertisement that was placed in countless magazines. The obvious retouching comes as a shocker when you see the two photos juxtaposed next to each other. The Madonna on the left shows a perfectly normal 53-year-old woman. The Madonna on the right is a fragment of the original that has been retouched, highlighted, and airbrushed to produce an unrealistic version of the reality. To put it in slightly hyperbolic terms, I believe that Photoshop has made “photo realism” an ambiguous term.

October 8, 2011
Subject: Digital Storytelling and Facebook
Today I came upon the term, “digital storytelling.” Digital storytelling refers to a short form of digital filmmaking that allows everyday people to share aspects of their life story. ( It combines images, digital content, and sound to communicate a “strong emotional component.”

When I thought about this type of communication through technology and images, I was reminded of the digital narrative I was required to complete for our ePortfolios. Although mine could use some work (ok, a lot of work), I remember the sense of pride I had when I finally finished it. I sent it to both of my parents and all of my siblings. I realize now that I was not only communicating a story about a life experience that was depicted in the narrative; I was also communicating my educational progress during my Freshman year.

The digital storytelling process allows people to express themselves not only with their own words but also in their own voices, giving them a sense of individuality and of “owning” their creations. At the same time, digital stories can give students, like me, an opportunity to experiment with self-representation by telling a story that highlights specific characteristics. This is definitely a part of establishing an identity, a process that for many is an important aspect of the college years.
We like to tell stories to teach beliefs and values to others. The oral tradition of knowledge transfer and exchange has served as the basis for education since humans began teaching one another.

The process of creating a digital story forces storytellers to choose a topic that can be appropriately conveyed to a particular audience, with electronic elements, in the time available ( This dynamic creates an opportunity to reflect on life and find deep connections with the subject matter of a course or with an out-of-class experience, such as a trip abroad.

Another way to shape and represent your identity is through the presentation of images on a social-networking site. Facebook is one of the most popular websites in the world. It allows you to create an online profile to represent the “real” you to the online world. However, “on social-networking sites such as Facebook, we think we will be presenting ourselves, but our profile ends up as somebody else—often the fantasy of who we want to be. Distinctions blur. Virtual places offer connection with uncertain claims to commitment” (Turkle 153).

As a self-proclaimed, “Facebook guru,” myself, I can say first hand that I do not post pictures when I know that I look… Let’s say “less than desirable.” For my ethnographic study, I have been asking friends about their images on Facebook and how they feel their pictures(as a whole) represents them. People on the Internet are all about making the right impression, so manipulating your photos on Facebook to make yourself look attractive, friendly, and popular is extremely appealing to many.

October 14, 2011
Subject: Social Photography

Photography has become a very social pastime with the up rise of digital cameras, the Internet, and photo-sharing websites. Photographers from all around the world are sharing their work, viewing the work of others, and making connections with people they would have otherwise never met. It’s an amazing thing how social networking and photography have almost merged into one big culture.

This YouTube clip is a video blog from a professional photographer. She explains the importance of social media in her field and how Twitter, Clout, and LinkedIn are shaping a photographer’s business. The interaction with clients or potential clients is wonderful because they can let you know exactly what they think of your work. I found it interesting that she specified that photographers should not ask fellow photographers their opinion on their work because it only matters what the client thinks. She said social photography websites can be a way to discuss equipment or technique.

With this post, I will list a couple different sites that show off this phenomena of social photography.

1. PictureSocial: a new place where photographers from all experience levels can share their knowledge and learn from others. On PictureSocial, you can display and critique photos, blog about your experiences, ask and answer questions, discuss camera equipment and more.

2. Collective Lens: promotes social change with photos. Uploading a photo can help bring awareness to important issues around the world. “You can inspire others to become involved.” (

October 14, 2011
Subject: The Flashpacker- 86% travel with a digital camera

Yes, I know this is the same date, but I just came across this article and it didn’t seem to necessarily fit into the previous post.

The flashpacker is a new breed of traveler, tech-savvy adventurers who have traded in their copy of “On the Road” for a cell phone, digital camera, iPod, wearable electronics clothes and a laptop, all snugly tucked away in their ergonomically correct, multi-function backpack.

“In a recent study, 21 percent of those surveyed travel with a laptop, 54 percent with an MP3 player, 83 percent with a mobile phone and an astounding 86 percent travel with a digital camera. Of all age groups, those 25-29 years old carry more of these items than anyone else” (Breaking Travel News).

October 16, 2011
Subject: Nostalgia—a longing to return home

The word "nostalgia" has a Greek derivation with two roots: "nostos" meaning to "return home or to one's native land" and "algos" referring to "pain, suffering, or grief" ( Nostalgia has always been associated with a myriad of physiological and psychological symptoms. Especially through literature through the ages, nostalgia is usually referenced in response to homesickness. Poems, novels, autobiographies, fiction, etc. continuously write about this notion of nostalgia.

Pictures are obviously a great way to remember the past. They provide a visual image of a previous time that jars your memory to personal memories, narratives, and history. They preserve and cherish a time, not unlike a souvenir. Images can evoke emotions, memories, or even smells from the past. A photograph creates a link between the past and the present.

Works Cited

"7 Things You Should Know about Digital Storytelling." Educause Learning Initiative. Jan. 2007. Web.

"Adobe Photoshop CS2." Adobe Photoshop. Adobe Systems Incorporated. Web.

"About." Collective Lens: Photography for Social Change. Web. <>.

Bull, Glen, and Sara Kajder. "Digital Storytelling in Language Arts." Digital Storyteller. Web. <>.

Celebrities before and after Photoshop. Photograph. 2010. Web.

LeVant, Howard. "The Changing World of Photography." PSA Journal 64.3 (1998). Ebscohost. Web.

"Maximizing Social Media For Photography Professionals - YouTube." YouTube - Broadcast Yourself. Web. <>.

"Nostalgia - Wiktionary." Wiktionary, the Free Dictionary. Web. <>.

"The Flashpacker: A New Breed of Traveler | News." Breaking Travel News. Web. <>.

Turkle, Sherry. Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other. New York: Basic, 2010.

Van Dijck, J. "Digital Photography: Communication, Identity, Memory." Visual Communication 7.1 (2008): 57-76. Sage Journals Online. Web.