The ‘Picturing the Social’ Conference, November 2014

As I mentioned in my last post, I will be joining the University of Sheffield’s Picturing the Social project in January, which forms part of the Visual Social Media Lab. The project launched with a conference last week, and I was fortunate to be able to present a summary of my research so far, fitting a whole thesis into just under 20 minutes (which is an excellent way of focusing the mind on what you really want to say).

There have been some excellent write-ups of the conference, from Karen Patel and The Useful in Parts blog.

What I just wanted to note here was the sheer breadth of material that was covered – looking at images on social media might well seem like quite a niche topic, but this conference proved that this subject is anything but niche. We heard about Lin Prøitz’s work with young people, technology and futuristic visions of mobile telephones. Shawn Walker discussed link rot, and told us that unicorns can both code and conduct theoretical analyses. Rhys Crilley talked about the rather chilling topic of the British Army’s ‘clean’ version of war on Facebook, where pictures of dogs and tanks abound, but local Afghan people are conspicuously absent. And Gillian Rose introduced me to the concept of ‘visualisations’ – 3D renderings of non-existent spaces, which I had only noticed in the past because they seemed so uncanny.

These are only a few of the people who spoke, but I just wanted to give an indication of the range of topics we looked at – from war to links, and from visualisations to young people and technology. This is a really diverse and exciting field to be working in, and the Picturing the Social project is clearly going to be fascinating to work on. I can’t wait to get started!

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