A More Open Place: Photographing Privacy
What Mark Zuckerberg has to do with tyranny, memory and digital perishables.
By Maria Popova
Facebook is the largest photo-sharing platform in the world, with over 100 million photos uploaded daily by a half-billion active users worldwide. At the same time, Facebook’s ever-changing, ever-convoluted privacy policies remain among the most hotly debated issues on and about the social web. While most of the public discourse revolves around the personal information shared by and on Facebook, one particularly fascinating and unsettling aspect of the issue is how Facebook handles image rights — their terms state that any user automatically grants Facebook a sub-licensable, royalty-free, transferable, worldwide license to any image uploaded on the site.
This form of digital tyranny is exactly what conceptual artist Phillip Maisel explores in his A More Open Place project — a series of images each produced by taking long-exposure photographs of a computer screen while flipping through a Facebook album. Inspired by a quote from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerber — who famously said, “We’re going to change the world. I think we can make the world a more open place.” — the project examines both our reaction to this digital deluge of photos and their fleeting nature.
The technology is such that it allows one to view photographs in albums in quick succession, infinitely looping. Because of this, an entire collection of photographs can be experienced in a matter of seconds. Documents of entire vacations, whose seasons, can blur by in an instant. In this way, I see the document becoming as fleeing as the moment it initially tried to capture.” ~ Phillip Maisel
The documentary and narrative capabilities of photography as a medium render it nearly perfect in its potential to act as a surrogate for memory. […] With the advent of websites like Facebook, the combination of technology and photography is playing an increasing role as a databank for our memories. At the same time, despite Facebook’s current popularity, its lasting prominence in our collective lives is uncertain, highlighting the ephemeral quality of photography in the digital age.” ~ Phillip Maisel
A More Open Place presents a compelling example of cross-platform, multimedia storytelling where a non-linear, unexpected narrative serves as the vehicle for an important social conversation about the givens of — as well as what is being taken by — the digital age.
Published September 21, 2010