Monday, February 26, 2007

The Age of 'Virtual Guilds'

I have been musing, in previous writings, on the transitory nature of information recorded in electronic formats of the 'new media'.

It may come as perhaps a surprise to some that I, in fact, actually may be found to embrace many aspects of the new media technologies. I say "surprised", in that those who may be reading this, who know that I engage in 'traditional' chemical-based photography, and also employ a strong ethic of 'do-it-yourself' (or 'DIY') camera building using improvised lenses and alternative photographic media, such as paper negatives. Yet I, in fact, can be found posting writings, often written using the aegis of a PDA and folding keyboard, onto a personal 'blog' website, often with some attached photographic image taken using a (usually) non-electronic method of image-making. I also can be frequently found to be using a flat-bed scanner to convert paper negatives into electronic formats, inverted and polished with the graphic arts program 'Photoshop', and then posted to the pinhole photography related website at F295.

It would seem obvious, therefore, that most every adherent of traditional media, who cares to be engaged in some form of dialog and exchange with others like-minded, does so while attached to that most modern of media, the Internet. Such people are therefore to be seen as adapters and avid proponents of both digital and analog media, rather than merely polarized and isolated, as many are want to think.

Certainly, not every person who posts photos online does so with images that originated from a digital camera. Many folks find that traditional film and camera technology to be a much more user-friendly, easily manipulatable technology that seems more fitting as a tool that fits the hand, bridging the gap between the eye and the heart. Such people recognize almost intuitively that certain tools are better suited for some tasks than others, and find no discomfort in switching back and forth between both. These same people would also perhaps agree that some tools, such as the flat-bed scanner, are just the right enabling technology that, combined with the personal computer and an internet connection, they can share with someone that they have never met, from any corner of the globe, an image that just previously that day had been exposed and processed.

These same people may also be found to be engaged in what are termed 'print exchanges', where traditional paper darkroom prints are handcrafted, then mailed off to some remote part of the world, to be received, weeks later, by an expectant enthusiast who may only then come to appreciate the subtle nuances of tone and texture and character that are only to be fully realized when a real, honest-to-gosh silver gelatin print is beheld in their hands.

Yet these folks would most likely have never learned of the creative arts, much less been able to communicate, were it not for the technological revolution in the field of social discourse brought about by the global network.

Thus we find that the place best suited for the application of the new tools of electronic commerce to be in the arena of mass-communication. We must, therefore, not pretend to confuse this activity with the merits of traditional craft making, nor assume that the new will overtake or displace the old. As adherents to the handcrafts find new avenues of interaction enabled by the Internet, these same traditions will be strengthened, rather than weakened. New, niche markets for specialty manufacturing that cater to the traditional crafts will coalesce, as groups of these adherents form what may be termed 'virtual guilds', for the preservation and the advancement of traditional handcrafts and arts.

The hand remains the bridge between the eye and the heart. Traditional arts and crafts are wrought by the work of the very same hand. As such, we can expect handicrafts to flourish, rather than languish, in this new, digital age.~


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