Monday, 5 October 2009

known also in new scientist magazine


Bugged by “photolurking”
The photolurking story - Online snappers told to beware ‘photolurkers’ - still has traction:

Since the popularity of photo-sharing sites exploded, the lives of snap-happy citizen journalists have been there for the lurking. And like the experience of Robin Williams’ tragic photo developer in One Hour Photo, happy family photos offer the perfect escapism from an unpleasant reality. [...]

Researchers at Lancaster University uncovered this strange breed of web addicts while analysing the habits of photo sharing site users.

Their report said: “People do this for emotional kicks. Curiosity, loneliness, even jealousy are just some of the reasons people look at these images.” Wedding photos are extremely popular, and at the time of writing, on sites like Flickr there were 3,868,832 images tagged ‘wedding’.

Clickthrough the strange breed accusation for (little) more:

“Not only are people interested in looking at the photographs of people they know, but also the photographs of complete strangers....” said Haliyana Khalid, a Phd student in Lancaster University’s Computing Department. “...They also like to talk about them with their friends. It can become quite obsession for some people. It isn’t uncommon to find people who go onto one of these sites every day.”

This is a diagnosis in search of a disorder; there is no there there. Just exactly what did they find that justifies these conclusions of loneliness, jealousy and emotional kicks? And how is it that visits to an online photo gallery earned the ominous “lurker” label?

Label me suspicious. I see a newspaper industry threatened by new media realities taking advantage of old media dynamics by associating an obscure PhD thesis topic with a bad scary movie through a sensationalist headline to, voilà, achieve a circulation boost. I’ve even been known to try such tactics from time to time myself.

Somebody show me the qualitative difference between 1950s browsing of Life Magazine, or 1990s flipping through People or Us or picking up any Fleet Street rag - or its American cousin, the supermarket tabloid - today, and our innocent Flickr browsing for wedding photos. Then maybe I’ll find something unpleasant about the new reality.

No comments: