A private visual practice going public? Social functions and sociological research opportunities of web-based family photography
Faculty of Social Sciences. Communication Sciences
Visual studies. - Basingstoke, 2002, currens
, p. 34-49
University of Antwerp
Family websites represent one of the more interesting areas of research into cultural change and reproduction. They also compellingly demonstrate the complex role of technology in both cultural processes. As the latest example of the long-established practice of family photography, these hybrid multimedia products have followed the path of the analogue photograph, framed and displayed in the home, kept in wallets or presented as series of pictures in photo albums, with a marked move to the digital world and a much less noticed shift to the sophisticated multimedia context of the Web. This article examines how this fairly recent shift from private photography to the semi-public space of the Internet, which is unfolding in dialogue with technology, has reinforced, expanded or radically changed the nature of family communications and the very significant social and cultural functions this highly codified practice has fulfilled from the onset. From an exploratory research study into online family websites, I discuss examples, which illustrate the similarities and changes taking place, the possible cultural-propagandistic and emancipatory effects, and the wealth of cultural information that can be decoded. I further discuss the methodological aspects and implications of decoding these new and very vivid exponents of culture.