Monday, December 7, 2009

Francis Photos by Cappie

In the process of creating the content for my IDM project, I was able to learn a little more about the visibility divide in content distribution that is undeniably observed in today’s Internet age. This visibility divide is characterized by an inequality among Internet users in having their content seen online. The web is such a vast place where a limitless amount of people can create and distribute whatever they desire—as long it doesn’t infringe on copyright laws or break, say, child pornography laws of course. Some glorify this aspect of the Internet as they deem it to be one of its most democratizing features. However, just because anyone can put something online doesn’t necessarily mean that it will be seen.

Anyone can start blogging about their personal political beliefs or perhaps their favorite television shows, but it is only those with the right resources and right sort of social capital that are able to gain visibility on the Internet. Similarly, anyone can start a Flickr account and upload photos that they have personally taken. The chances that their photos will be seen by many, however, is quite slim. I experienced this in the initial steps of my project. After uploading my friend’s photographs, I saw that it would be quite difficult to get my Flickr profile noticed above all others.

This is where the tagging system comes into play. Tagging is an integral part of getting visibility of your content. Because there are so many different people on the Internet with such a wide variety of interests, there understandably needs to be some sort of taxonomic system wherein people can easily search for things that interest them. Flickr and Deviant Art, the two image hosting websites I used to showcase my friend’s photos, both utilize a tagging system in which people need only to search for a subject that fascinates them, and they can then easily browse all the pictures on that subject.

While tagging systems can certainly help one’s content get noticed, they can only do so much. I found that establishing your place in a community is much more conducive to getting your name out there. By joining groups of people with similar interests and initiating a discourse among them, one can certainly gain more followers and get noted. While I was not really able to do this (because I myself do not understand the photography process), I noticed that those people who were receiving the most comments and “favorites” and requests for downloads were those people who were members of various communities and who had made actual friendships with people online. Placing oneself in networks of like-minded people certainly seems the best way to get yourself noticed.

All in all, it has become quite evident to me during the process of this IDM project that gaining visibility online requires much more than simply having the ability to access the Internet. One needs the proper resources, skills, and social capital in order to actually be visible. Quite regrettably, not everyone can necessarily acquire these things all that easily—and thus we have the visibility divide.

Flickr page:

Deviant art page:

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