Tuesday, January 24, 2006

If a picture is worth a thousand words...

After reading Nancy White's post A Few Flickr Flights of Fancy I got to thinking about what thousands of pictures are worth? Too much to think about? How about something more focused on a particular topic or population? After talking with the International District Housing Alliance's program manager for the Wilderness Inner-city Leadership Development Youth Program about the Community Perspectives Project, I started thinking about the power of photo sites like flickr for social, civic, and overall change.

To understand the thinking behind this, it probably helps to understand a bit more about the Community Perspectives Project. Briefly this project was to engage stakeholders of the International District (residents, youth, visitors, business owners, etc) in a dialogue about their perspectives of the neighborhood. The role of technology came into play through ComNET and Photovoice. ComNET stands for Computerized Neighborhood Environmental Tracking. Photovoice is a tool that gets cameras into the hands of people often left out of the decision making process. Surveys, focus groups and community presentations were also a component of this project. My main interest in this project centers on how they essentially repurposed the tech towards an engaging, social project. (I also think this is just a great idea in general)

Now does it make more sense about where I'm going with the whole flickr notion? The possibility that I see with Flickr has already been realized to an extent, given MoveOn's forray into this. I'd be curious to see what would happen if you take it a step further -- do something like Photovoice where the photographers collaborate, put their thoughts, visions and such into their own words and visuals. Have them go through a vetting process and the like to determine which is the best photo, and all. It's not so much about the tech, but how people interact with one another as supplemented by the tech. Have debates, have discussions about which photo should be selected for a wider viewing, or whatever else is appropriate. Really it's bringing people together, with the assistance of tech, and the end result of building community.

Another way of looking at this is how any photo sharing service plugged into a blog or something could be a new iteration of Photovoice or the family photo albums that users upload on the original Sims site? Not only would the groups who created the pics be able to share, but others can chime in with comments and all too. It becomes more of a dynamic conversation rather than static images. Images are powerful because of how they affect us as individuals and as a community.

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