Age of the Metaview

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Presentation to University of Canberra's Open Friday forum, Friday 28 October 2011 by James Steele. James is completing his PhD in Visual Arts at the ANU’s School of Art. He is looking at the use of location as one organiser for the overwhelming flood of images accessible over the internet, and how, over time, the photographs from a particular location might define the place for this generation and for others to follow. His presentation will include a number of emerging techniques for organising images, and explore what still needs to be done in this area.

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  • Digital cameras and cameraphones are increasingly popular and the images captured by them being made available more and more easily to us every day. Maybe these avalanches of photos are not to be seen like material prints. Maybe they are more like unrecorded conversations that stream by us everyday and are at best half-remembered. Maybe they are ephemeral and don ’ t need to be preserved for the future.   But the value of mediated items changes in time and in context.
  • Whatever reason the painter in the caves of Chauvet and Lascaux in France around 35,000 years ago (we ’ re not sure of the exact time: the metadata appears to be missing) had for recording his or her reflections on the wall, it sure wasn ’ t so that archaeologists and tourists today could come and look at what they had done. Maybe it was graffiti, maybe they were teachers using the cave wall as a blackboard (whiteboard?) is used today. Who knows?   I put the question to Google on 23 September 2011 and an article on that wonderfully academic site ThinkQuest came up with this:   Some people believe that the people who lived in caves just wanted to decorate their walls , as we do today. Some scientists think that because cavemen had no written language they communicated their stories by using pictures instead . … Other people believe that the cave people thought that painting animals on their walls would make animal spirits come to them and bring good fortune . Others believe that the cave paintings sometimes sent messages to other people passing through or living in the cave in the future . We have not determined if any of the symbols on the cave walls mean anything, and if they do mean something, researchers aren't sure what the meanings are. We may never know for sure . – http://library.thinkquest.org/04oct/00451/cavedrawings.htm   Whatever the reasons the original paintings were made, we value them for the insight they give us into a past that is totally foreign to us.
  • [Facebook] currently have over 200 million photos uploaded per day , or around 6 billion per month . There are currently almost 90 billion photos total on Facebook. This means we are, by far, the largest photos site on the Internet .   If that was January, then today the number would be almost 140 billion if the rate of uploads remained constant. If the rate of uploads increased, possibly more. There is some question about whether these numbers refer to unique images, though. In 2009, Erick Schonfeld from Techcrunch pointed out that then the numbers from Facebook represented the total number of images, and that since it stores four versions of each image that the number of unique images is only really a quarter of the total [ http://techcrunch.com/2009/04/07/who-has-the-most-photos-of-them-all-hint-it-is-not-facebook/]. Still, 30 billion plus photos is still a big number.
  • [Click photo to go to Flickr and check out the Interesting photos from the last 7 days in Explore] Flickr (on 4 August 2011): had 6,000,000,000 ! (just the monthly upload for Facebook).   If you have a look at Last 7 Days interesting on Flickr today [http://www.flickr.com/explore/interesting/7days/], you can see that the figure is almost 6.3 billion, so in less that three months around 250 million images have been uploaded. Ball-park 100 million a month as opposed to 1.5 to 6 billion a month on Facebook.   [Run Slideshow]   So, in 35,000 years from now, who is going to be able to see these images that are flickering on the walls of our caves today? Will “ they ” want to? What evidence of today ’ s popular culture will endure, and will it be accessible? Does anybody care? Will they care in 35,000 years?   Whatever the answer, it ’ s going to need new forms of organising and interacting with images to make sense. One of my supervisors, Martyn Jolly, and I collaborated on a paper for the Journal of Australian Studies on this new challenge, and Martyn came up with the term ‘ metapicture ’ . We called the article ‘ Generating a new sense of place in the age of the metaview ’ and it should be coming out in the Media and Materiality special issue of the Journal Real Soon Now.   In the article, as in my PhD generally, we were looking specifically at location as one organizer for this overwhelming flood of images, and using location to create metaviews of places. There are other applications of metaviews as well, as you will see and no doubt think of yourselves. So what is a metaview?
  • met•a•view noun – a coherent view made up of multiple images.
  • Collage
  • Panorama
  • Gigapixel image
  • [Tone-mapped image]   Tone-mapped image, often called HDR or High-Dynamic range images, composed by fusing several different exposures together.
  • Using metadata, in this case location, there are new opportunities to combine images together. In my original proposal to the School of Art, I said that   Years ago I came up with the idea of the [Japanese] Tourist Syndrome: I had observed tourists arriving on a bus at a scenic location, and spend their time taking photographs (with the viewfinder their window to the location), apparently at random, without thought to framing and subject. I'd imagined what it must be like for them reconstructing their visits and vicariously or virtually experiencing the actual place they had visited.   I thought of developing an exhibition based on the idea of replacing the actual experience of being somewhere, with photographs. The scenario [for capturing the images] would be: walk out of a bus at a significant site with the motor-drive running (I had the idea some time ago) and pointing the camera randomly all around. Walk around the scene, taking shots continually and without regard to the subject or framing. Later, in a darkened warehouse, hang (selected) prints in their correct relationship to each other so they can be viewed by walking along a fixed track that corresponds to the route taken by the original photographer.     As you can see by the work of MA-SAR-KI FUJI-HARTA, a Japanese artist who combined multiple media together with GPS track data to create immersive effects, he has a similar idea.
  • [Grand High Tops]   Using a digital camera and a separate GPS device, you can add location metadata to digital images, upload them to Google ’ s Panoramio, and display them on Google Earth.
  • Other people’s images from Panoramio around Grand High Tops at Warrumbungle National Park (‘ photoguano ’ )
  • On Panoramio, you can also search for a particular place and gather the images located there over satellite imagery. Flickr and Picasa allow you to do the same sort of thing, but I’m unhappy with the visual experience so I’m looking for new ways to present location-based images in metaviews, views (or ways of looking at images combined together), that may not have been invented yet.
  • As more and more photographs have location metadata attached, it becomes easier to find different views of a place, or even the same view but taken at different times. Last time I could find any data, September last year, 2010, about eight million geotagged photographs were being uploaded to Flickr each month. These pictures can be searched and reconfigured to create other pictures, for instance in 2009 some researchers from Cornell University harvested over 35 million geocoded photographs from Flickr to create a ‘‘heat map’’ of the world, showing where the photographs had been taken. David Crandall, Lars Backstrom, Daniel Huttenlocher and Jon Kleinberg, ‘‘Mapping the World’s Photos,’’ (paper presented at WWW2009, April 20􏰃24, 2009, IW3C2, Madrid, Spain), accessed July 19, 2009, http://www.cs.cornell.edu/%7Edph/papers/photomap- www09.pdf
  • Ahti Heinla ’ s Touristiness maps were created using images from Panoramio. Yellow indicates high touristiness, red medium touristiness, and blue low touristiness. Areas having no Panoramio photos at all are grey. The analysis takes into account how many photos and by how many authors there are in a given area.
  • ‘‘ The Moment’’, a combination of 200 images created by CNN photographers and 400 images ‘‘ crowdsourced ’’ from user-contributed photographs, all taken at the moment of the inauguration of President Obama, shows how different perspectives of, in this case, an historical event, can be combined together on a scale that would have been impossible without digital cameras and the internet. The resulting metaview, a photosynth that users can experience over the internet, provides a new experience of the event that even people at the actual event could not have had.
  • Done by GRAIL: a team from the University of Washington, Cornell University and Microsoft Research (basically the same team that brought us Photosynth), this 3D reconstruction of the old city of Dubrovnik, Croatia, containing 4,619 images and nearly 3.5 million 3D points, using something they developed called the Bundler Toolkit. http://grail.cs.washington.edu/rome/.
  • Autodesk’s project Photofly is awesome: using Autodesk’s Photo Scene Editor software . Check out more videos and the background at http://labs.autodesk.com/utilities/photo_scene_editor/ Overview is a great video for background: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CGZXkSke_vI
  • On 23 July, 2010, at Whites River Hut in the High Country a skier threw spirits into a pot-bellied stove to light it, not knowing that there were still glowing embers there. The resulting fire quickly took hold inside the hut, but a party of passing skiers extinguished it before the hut was completely destroyed. The KHA sent out a call to its members to contribute photographs of the hut before the fire to its photography website so that a 3D model of the hut, outside and in, could be developed using Google ’ s SketchUp application, and plans drawn up to repair the damage. While not quite as spectacular as ‘ The Moment ’ , the metaview afforded by the 3D model allows the viewer to experience something that has been lost, to get a sense of the place as it was, in this case before a destructive event. The purpose is not only to help give viewers an appreciation of the value of the structure in its environment, but to provide the information necessary to support a reconstruction project. In this case, despite several years of effort before the fire to collect them online, sufficient photographs of the hut were not immediately available to create the 3D model, but a call-to-action among KHA members immediately after the fire saw sufficient photographs for the 3D model to be contributed to the KHA photo website. As it happened, I have photographed a complete 360º view of the hut in February, 2010, six months before the fire. Had the photographs scattered across the internet in, for example, KHA members ’ Flickr accounts, on Panoramio or in the online collections of cultural institutions, contained location metadata the call-to-action may not have been required. The collection of the images for the construction of 3D model of Whites River Hut is an early example in Australia of how the metaview can contribute to our sense of place, in this case to reconstruct what may have been lost. http://www.khuts.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=577:whites-river-hut-burnt-july-2010&catid=34:kha-events&Itemid=70 accessed 6 September 2010.
  • Age of the Metaview

    1. 1. Age of the metaview <ul><li>[email_address] </li></ul>
    2. 3. Quora , 26 January 2011
    3. 4. http:// blog.flickr.net /en/2011/08/04/6000000000/
    4. 5. met•a•view noun a coherent view made up of multiple images.
    5. 8. http://www.gigapixel.com/vancouver/van-giga12.html
    6. 10. Masaki Fujihata [ http://www.fujihata.jp /]
    7. 14. Crandall et. al . – Heat Map
    8. 15. http://www.bluemoon.ee/~ahti/touristiness-map/
    9. 16. Photosynth - ‘ The Moment ’
    10. 17. The old city of Dubrovnik
    11. 18. Photofly
    12. 19. Whites River Hut – SketchUp
    13. 20. Cronulla Street
    14. 21. [email_address]
    15. 23. Google Image Search
    16. 24. Trove – http://trove.nla.gov.au/
    17. 25. Flickr Commons – http://www.flickr.com/commons

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