Ok I can’t resist I have to formally weigh in on Jen and Andy’s Cabinet of Curiosities discussion (and I have loved and been inspired by the interactions in this block – an idyllic learning environment indeed). To summarise, the metaphor of lifestreaming as curatorship poses several ethical questions regarding the collection of items of interest. Quoting from Tony’s blog:
Cabinets of curiosities or Wunderkammern are collections of ’strange’ and ‘primitive’ artefacts – some natural, some hand-made - acquired and displayed by mainly wealthy collectors. They belong to a culture of aristocrats, gentlemen or aspiring gentlemen and are also part and parcel of the phenomenon of the grand tour. To be one of the curiosi, is to reveal a fineness of sensibility, an appreciation of the sublime but also an understanding of what’s really art – and what’s just … well … ’strange’ ( a ‘curiosity’). So, I see them as being one of the ways in which a particular class of men distinguished themselves aesthetically, and through this, socially.
The ethical question posed here is the power inherent in being associated with a collecting elite. Whether the prestige garnered from owning a collection is social, economic or (in our case) intellectual we are involving ourselves in a power game – and potentially gathering influence by having the ‘right’ things in our collection. In the world of material artifacts whether items are gathered for private or public collections there is often an issue of legality in their appropriation. This too has a parallel in our digital collections. None of the images I gathered for my video were from creative commons sources, though I did relent and use Audioswap to remove my copyright non-compliant soundtrack, replacing it with something from You Tube’s library. However I think the illegal appropriation of copy-righted images (and sound) is an important topic as is the ethics of collecting. What about the future? Will the dynamic user-generated momentum of Cyberia carry us into a a virtual lifeworld everything is up for grabs? If we can all own everything will prestige come only our apparent discernment over what we have included (and chosen to exclude) and the consequent approbation from our cyberpeers registered in hits and comments?
If so will be be moving forwards or backwards?
After a quick hit and run mission on google to appropriate images for this post (see below) I notice that this topic has many miles yet. Ethnography is just as much a controversial and power riddled issue as the collection of visual artifacts. So don’t put your pith helmets and shrunken heads in storage just yet!
Ladies who collect, from l2r: Alexandrine Tinne, Mary Kingsley, Delia Akeley and of course Lara Croft (below)