Distribution & Archiving of Photos

Archiving and the digitization of photography has evolved from personal album sharing to various forms of digital distribution channels. Photographers are no longer the only people who can produce a picture and share it in formats for the public to see. With the emergence of digital photography, their is a culture of sharing that involves more than just prints and photo albums. Individuals have the ability to share unlimited amount of pictures in faster response times and to multiple viewers at the click of a mouse.

New Distribution channels

When photography hit mainstream and more people were able to afford cameras the method to distribute your pictures was through prints. People would take the film from their camera and either develop them in their own personal studio or they would have a trained professional to do the work in a low light settings. The prints would then be available for the person to display them in frames or album books.

Memories were recored in a black and white or color photo negatives allowing the cameramen to experience them in a printed form. This distribution channel evolved many times before what we have today. Photo sharing websites like Flickr and Photo Bucket have become a popular outlet that allows individuals to upload their pictures so that their friends and family can open them in a digital format. These websites are just a few out of many different ones that have catapulted the culture of sharing in a much affordable and faster way than print pictures. With this technology, distributing photos rather than sending or scanning pictures on to the computer people can tag them in to their archives for faster access. Archiving your photos today requires time but with the help of various applications organizing them has become more convenient. With the majority of mobile phones installing cameras you can now email images in a matter of seconds for a receiver to view just minutes after capturing them.

Culture of sharing
Organizing family photos can be a daunting task. Attics, basements, and closets become filled with shoeboxes and albums packed with photographs intended for generations ahead to enjoy. However, if these family treasures are left to languish in the dark corners of our homes, they are susceptible to damage and, in a worst case scenario, destruction. Creating a digital back-up is give you options to store more photos onto your PC and sometimes portable media players. In web 2.0 the culture of sharing is something that has extended to video content, chatting, texting and especially picture sharing making way for a new thought process of how we interact with each other as a society.

The channels of sharing have developed from tangible materials like floppy disks and CDs to mobile applications and hard drives making the space smaller for mobility and storage. Sharing photos with strangers has not become unusual to some users as they continue to upload hundreds of photos without concerns of copyright issues or embarrassing pictures. We are moving to a world of comfortable public settings and tagging our pictures for a world wide archive of images.

Cifuentes and Bulu (2006, p.135), citing Davis, define culture as “the total accumulation of beliefs, customs, values, behaviors, institutions and communication patterns that are shared, learned and passed down through the generations in an identifiable group.” The culture of sharing, though, refers to a technological state of society that allows production activities with material resources controlled by individuals (Benkler, 2006). This culture has been generated by the digitization of content and its ease of sharing, remixing, repurposing, and replicating (Tapscott and Williams, 2008).

Creative Commons

In 2007, Virgin Mobile launched a advertising campaign promoting a text messaging service with the work of amateur photographers who uploaded their work to Flickr using a Creative Commons license. Users licensing their images this way freed their work for use by any other entity, as long as the original creator was attributed credit, without any other compensation expected. Virgin supported this restriction by publishing a URL of the photographer's Flickr page on all of their ads. However, one picture, depicting a 15 year-old at a fund-raising carwash for her church, caused some controversy when she sued Virgin Mobile. The photo was taken by a church youth counselor who uploaded the image to Flickr under the Creative Commons license. Virgin Mobile did not give proper credit thus violating the Creative Commons license.

Photography is an important part of the social sharing culture, since it shifts from a restricted control of those who had the technique and high valued professional apparatus to the low-cost digital cameras owned by the masses. The sharing culture widens the function of personal photography since it becomes part of self-expression and an essential issue for impression management (Krämer and Winter, 2008), it amplifies privacy perceptions (Besmer and Lipford, 2008), it brings new forms of competition to those who produce information goods (Benkler, 2006), and it builds knowledge and diffuses information more quickly than ever before (Shirky, 2008).

The growth of storage space and the spread of digital content online brought about a necessity to formulate alternatives for legal distribution and reuse of creative works. One of the most important attempts to mitigate problems regarding copyright infractions is the Creative Commons.

The Creative Commons is an international movement initiated by Lawrence Lessig in 2001 to manage creative works protected by copyright law, such as music, film, and photography. The CC licenses are much more permissive and consist of four types (Rezwan, 2008): Attribution (licensees may copy, distribute, display and perform the work and make derivative works based on it only if they give the author or licensor the credits in the manner specified by these), NonCommercial (licensees may copy, distribute, display, and perform the work and make derivative works based on it only for noncommercial purposes), No Derivative Works (licensees may copy, distribute, display and perform only verbatim copies of the work, not derivative works based on it), and ShareAlike (licensees may distribute derivative works only under a license identical to the license that governs the original work) are the most common license arrangements under creative commons.

According to the Creative Commons website, there are estimated 130 million CC licensed works. In the future as more social networks and sharing applications are created their could be a possible cultural shift of looking at photography the same way music listeners view the decline of LPs, cassette tapes and CDs as a digital format provides back up and less physical storage. Archiving and sharing pictures will never be the same as more advanced technologies allow each of us to become our own photographers, archivist and publishers in easier and less expensive ways.


Benkler, Y. (2006). The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Besmer, A., & Lipford, H. R. (2008, July). Privacy Perceptions of Photo Sharing in Facebook. Poster presented at Symposium On Usable Privacy and Security (SOUPS). Retrieved from: http://cups.cs.cmu.edu/soups/2008/posters/besmer.pdf

Cifuentes, L., & Bulu, S. (Fall 2006). An Online Collaborative Environment for Sharing Visual Culture. Journal of Visual Literacy, Vol.26(20), p.133-150.

Creative Commons Webpage. (2009). Creative Commons About: History. Retrieved March 6, 2009 from http://creativecommons.org/about/history/

Flickr.com. (2009). Search Group on Creative Commons. Retrieved March 6, 2009 from http://www.flickr.com/search/groups/?q=creative+commons&page=2

Krämer, N. C., & Winter, S. (2008). Impression management 2.0: The relationship of self-esteem, extraversion, self-efficacy, and self-presentation within social networking sites. Journal of Media Psychology: Theories, Methods, and Applications, Vol. 20(3), p. 106-116.

Rezwan. (2008, August 28). Creative Commons and the culture of sharing. Message posted to http://rising.globalvoicesonline.org/blog/2008/08/28/creative-commons-and-the-culture-of-sharing/

Shirky, C. (2008). Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations. New York: The Penguin Press.

Tapscott, D., & Williams, A.D. (2008). Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything. New York: Portfolio.

Digital Preservation wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_preservation

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