(If you’re reading this and you’ve just come from kottke.org, let me take this opportunity to say hello and welcome, and please read on, because the following might be pertinent for you.)
I seem to be getting quite regular traffic (well, okay, by ‘regular traffic’ I mean like eight or nine hits, but that’s good for me!) from a comment I left last month on one of Jason Kottke’s remaindered links, regarding a photolog concerned with the lives of the homeless. Being in a cynical mood at the time, I spat out the following invective:
> This is basically Bumfights without the fighting. I’m sure he/she would have some petit bourgeois “artistic justification” for it, but that wouldn’t wash with me. It’s one thing capturing a fleeting moment for the sake of art, but making a dedicated project out of it is surely exploitative.
Nice, isn’t it? I impressed myself with that _”Bumfights without the fighting”_ quip. But you know what? It’s only rhetoric. I was more concerned at the time about how good the words looked than what I really felt about the issue. I did try to retract my statement (or at least take the venom out) a little further on in the discussion, but I suppose it was too little, too late, especially in an environment like this where first impressions matter so much more than in person. (It’s much easier to ignore the other side of the debate when you’re both hiding behind a computer.)
So what do I have to say about it now? Well firstly, I don’t believe that the photolog in question is exploitative, however I do think the disposability of the medium takes away from the seriousness of the issue.
Actually, I think the disposability of modern-day mass media takes away from the seriousness or the gravity of _most_ social issues. Whether it’s homelessness in America or Aids in Africa or riots in Australia or whatever, the medium abstracts the real, visceral event into little more than a few hundred words, a short video clip or a photograph, and some fancy graphics for decoration. It’s all too easy to look, say “that’s nice, somebody’s highlighting an important issue here” and then turn off the TV, close the paper or log off the website and forget about it.
I’m guilty of it myself. It’s not that I don’t care — I’m interested enough to read the paper or watch the news in the first place — it’s that I don’t care enough to do anything about it. Or I feel that it’s not my problem and other people will take care of it, though I know in the back of my mind that everyone else says the same thing to themselves, which means that no one takes any responsibility. I think that’s a pretty common trend.
To put it more bluntly, the problem isn’t lack of interest — it’s disinterest. And it was my perception of this disinterest in the weblogging community, where people hop onto the latest trends at the click of a mouse (and when they do get into a discussion, talk circles round each other), that prompted my harsh words, even though it was ultimately hypocritical of me to use them. (Hell, one could argue that my own linklog is little more than an exercise in disinterest!)
But hey, I was humbled, and at least I’m honest enough to say I was wrong. That was my first step; the next is to take my share of responsibility for society’s ills. The proprietor of the photolog is doing his part. Can the same be said for the people who view his photos?
Can the same be said for you? Let me know what you think.