Digital cameras – are you kidding me? A notion of the 3 p’s…

In the few short weeks we’ve been examining the effects of technology (particularly digital technology and the internet) on our society and the implications of technology in the classroom, I have come to relatively few conclusions: the internet/technology is not going away; technology is not our ‘enemy’; technology is a tool; how we choose to use that tool in the classroom is important as we strive to be effective teachers in a changing culture; and we are complicit in the changes to our society brought about through our use of technology. So where do we go from here?

I can remember when digital cameras came out. I can remember the debates I would have with my friends who were interested in photography about digital cameras, about the use of Photoshop. I can remember the internal struggles I had with the ideas of “authenticity” especially when considering the use of digital technologies in photography, tools such as Photoshop. I remember thinking, “Not me. Never. You’ll have to take film out of my cold dead hands.” And Photoshop? !Well, that is definitely cheating. Digital photography and digital manipulation of photographs was just for lazy, impatient, and unskilled photographers. Real photographers use film.”

I wonder now about many of these issues and what exactly was being debated – I’m sure they are still debated in the profession, though probably less and less. It seems to me that one of the purposes of photography is to capture a moment in time visually. It can serve artistic, emotive and thought-provoking purposes; and it can also serve as a witness to historical events. I would argue that in most cases and for most people, we focus on the image, and not the means used to produce it. What effect does the image have on the viewer? What does the image make the viewer feel or think about? My internal debate over which type of camera to use and whether using Photoshop is ‘cheating’ seems irrelevant when considering the final image.

So in photography, there are three P’s to consider:

  1. Process: the tools and methods used in the act of representation or creation
  2. Product: the image created
  3. Purpose: the communicative and affective function of the image.

We can  explore different processes by which an image can be created and debate the advantages and/or disadvantages of one system compared to another. We can argue the “authenticity” of the product (Is the image manipulated? Does it adequately and truly represent “reality”?). Or we can explore the purpose, what the photographer wishes to communicate with that image.  When considering the image’s impact on the viewer, does it matter what type of camera is used to create the image? When we think about the effect an image has when we engage with it, does it matter whether the product is virtual (digital) or real (physical, hard copy photograph)? I would argue that the purpose is the salient issue.

I think it’s the same in the classrooms. While the process and the product are more important in the classroom than in the above example of photography, I would argue that purpose is key. In the classroom, students must learn and master adequate processes in order to produce a relevant product. However, the processes and products should point toward a goal, a purpose. A writer must understand and be able to manipulate the features of our language systems in order to create a poem, essay, etc. but generally the ultimate goal of writing is communication. One of the purposes of education is to foster and nurture our creative and critical thinking skills, to have informed, thinking members of society who use their innate and learned skills/abilities to examine the world we share.


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