Thursday, January 12, 2006

Where did all the aggression go?

In many online groups, it's not at all uncommon for people to get a little nasty with each other. Thanks to the online disinhibition effect, some people will argue, criticize, berate, and insult others without much provocation. If the conversation lasts long enough, including discussions where people initially try to be supportive and respectful, tempers get tested and flames begin. Even purely "intellectual" discussions often are peppered with oppostional comments and unwarranted disagreeableness.

That doesn't seem to be the case in flickr, the online photo-sharing community. At least from what I have observed so far. When people comment on each other's pictures, the feedback is almost always positive and supportive. Pithy and generic - like "Wow"... "Great shot!"... "Nice colors" - but always positive.

Why? There might be several reasons. Displaying photos can be quite revealing of oneself. People, especially those with artistic aspirations, are taking a chance by presenting their work. A "do unto others" philosophy may have developed in flickr as an expression of that vulnerability and need to protect oneself.

Flickrites also might be less interested in verbal communication compared to other online groups. It's all about the images. People may find it easier to offer a pithy positive comment, than to be critical and then perhaps drawn into a verbal debate. To get people to look at and respond to your images, you have to comment on other's photos and generate contacts. Many comments, many contacts. The most efficient way to do that is to visit as many photostreams as possible and be as friendly as possible.

Some of the more serious photographers are not exactly happy with this uniformly positive and seemingly superficial atmosphere. They want analysis, critique, and debate. They want honesty. Because I tend to offer more feedback on photos than the typical terse comments, I was invited to join the newly formed "Pessimists" group. Their members are asked to be supportive when responding to images, but to always offer constructive criticism. The underlying mission is to make Flickr a slightly less sugar-coated environment.

No doubt I 'm overlooking other such groups within flickr. For example, there is the deleteme group, which claims to be "cruel... not cool." Such groups might be the collecting ground for the community's negativity.

Freud claimed that humans are intrinsically aggressive. It's one of the two basic drives that make us tick. We can control or over-ride it, but it's got to go somewhere.


Blogger vieome said...

I just have one question

12:52 AM  
Blogger Scott W. Somerville said...

It was an accident, really, but you wound up with STAR BILLING on my blog. I was trying to create a whole new category for bloggers who are thinking about blogging, and I guess I don't know enough HTML to get it right. But I looked at the result, after it happened, and decided that I really do want all my favorite bloggers to tune in to what you're saying about the psychology of blogging. Keep up the good work!

1:01 PM  
Blogger Margaret said...

I think that it is likey that many use flicker in order to get compliments on their photos. Since some reveal quite a bit about the photographer, he will take comments personally. For a few, their art speaks for itself. Very talented, popular photographers must feel like stars. The average photographer needs to improve if he has chosen talented contacts, if he wants to keep getting compliments, or else choose contacts more like himself.

11:59 AM  
Blogger aenertia said...

Hrm, I have noticed the same thing. And while I do agree with your comments about photographs as a medium that tends to be more "intimate" and thus have a norm of respect attached to it... I think you are missing the importance of permanence. If you think about how tag, captions and markup to RL photographs has traditionally been represented, these tend to have a permanence. So perhaps this implied permanence is what is keeping flikr.. clean... so to speak.
Also, I believe that flikr has a fairly select userbase at present, when compared to similar photo commenting boards such as somethingawful etc... there is certainly not the same reverence observed on flikr.

I think the permanence thing is the most important aspect tho. I have observed the same flikr users commenting on flikr albums and also the same people on irc... and well.. there is a pretty big difference.

I would guess that if flikr were to sully it's reputation somehow (i.e by deleting a bunch of accounts... or allowing more open access to accounts/posting albums) it would also lose some of this edge.

Kind regards
Joel W Pauling
Victoria University of Wellington

5:29 AM  
Blogger The Lost Crow said...

flikr like most sites is contraditory to improvement... if someone does something poor, they should not be complimented, not shot down, but criticized. Sites like flikr take away from true artist by allowing anyone with a digital camera to post anything on the web, and people will then leave comments in hopes of obtaining comments for themselves, even though neither is worthy of praise.

9:57 AM  
Blogger Nirmal Raj Joshi said...

I agreee because i myself was involved in such thing. I used to give bad comments. hahaha
But that was fun for me .I used to be excited when the person used to reply me scolding manner.

4:26 AM  
Blogger subpixel said...

I think there is similar behaviour within the deviantARTcommunity (not as dirty as the name suggests, though does contain "tasteful" nudity). The dA community has quite different aspects to it - mainly "artistic" creations as well as photographs, so often more effort involved in the items posted, and I suppose a lot greater "risk" in putting somethig "out there". dA caters for this by allowing the poster to indicate a preference for the level of criticism expected or tolerated for each item.

Also on dA, many people create tutorials and other resources (brushes, textures, stock photography, etc) to be used by other members - a much more valuable currency than a quick "cool picture" comment. The main criteria for reuse being to credit the creator of the resource with a link back to their pages within the site.

dA has a commercial side, offering prints for sale, but I have no idea how many such sales are actually made.

2:07 PM  
Blogger neal said...

The online photo-sharing community. At least from what I have observed so far. When people comment on each other's pictures, the feedback is almost always positive and supportive. Pithy and generic like Wow Great shot.Nice colors but always positive.Thanks to the online disinhibition effect, some people will argue, criticize, berate, and insult others without much provocation.


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