Sometimes I contribute

I love open source. No mystery there! I’m a fan of Ubuntu the Linux based free operating system, and software like wordpress (this blog is powered by wordpress), and other software like OpenCart.

I love open source. No mystery there! I’m a fan of Ubuntu the Linux based free operating system, and software like wordpress (this blog is powered by wordpress), and other software like OpenCart.

OpenCart is a bit special to me because it is the only open source project I have contributed to, I’ll admit I had help, standing on the shoulders of giants and all that. OpenCart is a free and open source online shop. My contribution PDF Watermarking is for people who sell E-books. My module dynamically adds unique detail to the PDF header and footer. E.G. Name and email address.

This isn’t DRM, people can still copy the PDF onto other devices, as the should be able to, but they can’t necessarily give it to all their friends without looking like a douche.

All I need to do now is write an E-book!

The Camera and the Crown

Having read the Wikipedia entry on Zygmunt Bauman and one of his papers, “Alone Again: Ethics After Certainty”. I’ve been thinking about the camera. Bauman looks at the camera twice, firstly as the creator of still images, and then as the creator of moving images.

He points to the still image as a cultural anchor, framing our world in a permanence of the past and a token of certainty, the moving image by contrast frames modernity as transient and insubstantial. In all fairness, Bauman is quite old and clearly not a child of the internet. If the previous two incarnations of the camera create a sense of permanence and then impermanence, what does the current crop of youtube clips indicate?
I would suggest that they point to a community of production and consumption, where permanence and impermanence is not the central issue, but the relationships between the images and their authenticity is the most pressing concern. Relationships that are authentic now guide the zeitgeist.

This is not however my main concern, another idea that Bauman traces is the idea that modern society tries to take out the uncertainty of life, but such an endeavor is simply not possible with all people in every society. From this arises the specter of “the other” or as Bauman calls him, “the stranger”. The fear of the unknown and uncontrollable now has a face; it’s the pedophile, or the Jew, or the Muslim, or the black, the gay, the refugee. Some of these groups are shadows (such as the pedophile), some are real (such as the Jews), but what they have in common is that none are threats unto themselves. All the hand waving about the risks of anyone of the previous groups has nothing to do with actual risk, and everything to do with fear of the unknown and the uncontrollable.

After the great depression, the stranger was the Jew; and we all know how that turned out, don’t we?
So as a photographer, where do I see the lens now? Society has come to see the camera as a symbol of authority; the news cameraman and the CCTV are both symbols of power. When I publicly wield a camera I do so to take pictures. Culturally however, I have assumed a tool of authority for my own ends. People are shocked, SHOCKED, to discover that people can take their photo in public and there’s nothing they can do about it. After all, the image is mine. I used to tell people that cameras really can’t steal your soul, but I sort of missed the point.

People aren’t actually concerned with their souls being stolen when their picture is taken in public. They’re worried that they will become unwilling participants in a cycle of production and consumption. They fear an asymmetrical relationship between the viewer and the subject; and this state of mind is only possible because of a disintegration of the concept of society, and the attendant loss of the public-self. I am “The Stranger”, and suddenly everyone believes that they are islands unto themselves, and the camera becomes the conquistador.

The camera is not a crown, but in a society where individuals distance themselves from moral duty as being “a private concern”, the camera with its power to document and critique the subject beyond the influence of their own network of relationships, it becomes an instrument of power. I personally welcome the scrutiny, as a person who is publicly moral, and the rest be damned.

On the subject of good and evil

It is a common misconception that there are people who are “good” or “evil”. An important distinction that is often overlooked is the intent of the attitude. Is it habit, or is it choice? From that one question, we can divide people into four groups.

The habitually good These people are good because it's a habit. They say please and thank you without ever hearing the words. Neural pathways laid down in childhood keeps these people on a narrow path of behaviour. Like a great machine they are simple self lubricating cogs, easing the path of themselves and others. Their lives become like dreams that have an unending circular logic. Not unpleasant but totally bereft of interpersonal choice, there are rules, and they follow them without even realising that they're there. The habitually evil Should you meet them, have mercy on them, for these people are ruled by fear. Like a hungry beaten dog they growl and snap in the futile hope that an uncaring universe won't kick them again. Should you be kind to them they will simply see an opportunity to exploit you. To tame the habitually evil you must simply be kind, to someone else. Wild dogs and hungry savages cannot resist the smell of a cooked meal, so to is the habitually evil unable to resist the good relationship. They see the possibility of another way of being, one unshackled by fear. Some will distrust what they see, preferring their old habits, some others may chose a path, high or low. The evil by choice The evil by choice are rarer than you might think. In truth, the choice made is strictly speaking not one to be evil, but one to be blind. Humans are incapable of cruelty and evil to one another unless they stop seeing the other as human. Sometimes this is done with language such as “Terrorist”, or they are covered in black hoods so they don't quite look like people any more, their anguish, and their humanity hidden. Those who chose the path of blindness are irredeemable, either through fear or greed they chose not to look and not to see. Firstly give them a choice to look and see; if they are powerful you can make them see; but this requires all the people to rise up and take their power away. If they are powerless, and strike out as opportunity presents itself, you can only thwart them with honesty. Tell everyone what they do, and how they do it. Expose them for what they are, what little power they have, be burnt away by the morning light. Should all that fail, and if it's in the common good, have them locked away at least, destroyed utterly at worst. The good by choice The last group is the most curious, by the habitually good they are viewed as cruel, the habitually evil as karma incarnate and by the evil by choice as dangerously sympathetic to the un-people. In truth, they are none of these things. The good by choice sees all the options and all the consequences and realises that the process of goodness is its own reward; that by being good we create the world we seek to live in, that none can be left behind and stepping on someone to get ahead just gets you stuck. The danger of the good by choice is their capacity to imagine evil, to see its machinations from the outside as the shambolic fear driven clock-work monstrosity that it really is, and to then throw a spanner in the works. If the evil by choice have made a decision to be blind, the good by choice have made a decision to see. Their perception makes them powerful, the blind will always bumble along while the sighted walk along the straight path. Do you choose? Do you see?]]>

It is a common misconception that there are people who are “good” or “evil”. An important distinction that is often overlooked is the intent of the attitude. Is it habit, or is it choice? From that one question, we can divide people into four groups.

The habitually good

These people are good because it’s a habit. They say please and thank you without ever hearing the words. Neural pathways laid down in childhood keeps these people on a narrow path of behaviour. Like a great machine they are simple self lubricating cogs, easing the path of themselves and others. Their lives become like dreams that have an unending circular logic. Not unpleasant but totally bereft of interpersonal choice, there are rules, and they follow them without even realising that they’re there.

The habitually evil

Should you meet them, have mercy on them, for these people are ruled by fear. Like a hungry beaten dog they growl and snap in the futile hope that an uncaring universe won’t kick them again. Should you be kind to them they will simply see an opportunity to exploit you. To tame the habitually evil you must simply be kind, to someone else. Wild dogs and hungry savages cannot resist the smell of a cooked meal, so to is the habitually evil unable to resist the good relationship. They see the possibility of another way of being, one unshackled by fear. Some will distrust what they see, preferring their old habits, some others may chose a path, high or low.

The evil by choice

The evil by choice are rarer than you might think. In truth, the choice made is strictly speaking not one to be evil, but one to be blind. Humans are incapable of cruelty and evil to one another unless they stop seeing the other as human. Sometimes this is done with language such as “Terrorist”, or they are covered in black hoods so they don’t quite look like people any more, their anguish, and their humanity hidden. Those who chose the path of blindness are irredeemable, either through fear or greed they chose not to look and not to see. Firstly give them a choice to look and see; if they are powerful you can make them see; but this requires all the people to rise up and take their power away. If they are powerless, and strike out as opportunity presents itself, you can only thwart them with honesty. Tell everyone what they do, and how they do it. Expose them for what they are, what little power they have, will be burnt away by the morning light. Should all that fail, and if it’s in the common good, have them locked away at least, destroyed utterly at worst.

The good by choice

The last group is the most curious, by the habitually good they are viewed as cruel, the habitually evil as karma incarnate and by the evil by choice as dangerously sympathetic to the un-people. In truth, they are none of these things. The good by choice sees all the options and all the consequences and realises that the process of goodness is its own reward; that by being good we create the world we seek to live in, that none can be left behind and stepping on someone to get ahead just gets you stuck. The danger of the good by choice is their capacity to imagine evil, to see its machinations from the outside as the shambolic fear driven clock-work monstrosity that it really is, and to then throw a spanner in the works. If the evil by choice have made a decision to be blind, the good by choice have made a decision to see. Their perception makes them powerful, the blind will always bumble along while the sighted walk along the straight path.

Do you choose? Do you see?