A Mobile Army of Metaphors: Archiving, Sharing, and Distributing the Social in Digital Photography

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Solomun, Sonja
Culture , Metaphor , Technology , Memory
This thesis charts the shifts in metaphors of memory associated with the digitization of personal photography – from ‘archiving’ to ‘sharing’ – developing a strong account of the role of metaphor in shaping cultural conceptions and material technologies of memory making in relation to photography. Early discourse surrounding the emergence of photography heralded the camera as a medium capable of capturing the imprinted trace (light) of the real. By extension, photography has routinely been figured as an essential means through which ‘the social’ can be captured, framed, communicated, and distributed, with personal photographs historically positioned as visual ‘archives’ of the self. Underlying this are specific metaphorical conceptions of the relationships between human memory, reality and representation. This thesis considers how metaphors of the ‘memory-archive’ have naturalized historically specific ideas about human memory which have in turn come to serve as models for the design and ongoing use of photographic technologies. This thesis argues for a sociology of metaphor, which can account for the ideological potential of metaphor in constructing a specific paradigm of memory, while advancing the material consequences of metaphor as a constitutive agent that enables and constrains the possibilities for memory making. The thesis focuses upon the metaphoric shifts from analogue preservation or ‘archiving’ to online distribution or ‘sharing’ within digital landscapes. The central chapters of the thesis consider the ways in which particular metaphors of memory – as archive, as distributed, as shared – are materialized as technologies, in this case photographic media. By exploring three key technologies – the Kodak EasyShare Camera, Cloud Computing, and the Instagram Application – the thesis examines the ways in which new metaphors of memory and of the social are becoming materially embedded. The thesis further reveals residual anthropocentric ideas of memory and technology, which continue through metaphors of photo-sharing which further disguises the role of the ‘technological unconscious’ in shaping potential memories.
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