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  • Writer's pictureCraig Norris

Capturing the World with Bliss Sandhu: A Conversation on Photography, Social Media and Environment.

Episode 45 - With Craig Norris, Taylor Lidstone, Bliss Sandhu.

First Broadcast on Edge Radio, Friday 11 August 2023


Join us for an enlightening conversation with Bliss Sandhu, a PhD candidate at the University of Tasmania’s School of Creative Arts and Media. Bliss is researching how ephemeral communication, such as Snapchat and Instagram stories, influences the way people represent and relate to the environment. He will share his findings and insights on how these forms of communication can have a passive influence on environmental awareness and behaviour. We will also explore topics such as the dominant ideology of Tasmania, the challenges and opportunities of environmental communication, and the future of narrative-based content creation for personalised consumption. Don’t miss this fascinating podcast on how ephemeral communication can shape our environmental consciousness and action.


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Craig

Alright. Hi. You're listening to Edge Radio 99.3 FM. This is now media mothership here with all your latest media news and happenings and unusual things as always. We're streaming on YouTube and Twitch. You can also reach out to us via our message service on 04888117. 07 as always, I'm your host, doctor Craig, and today it's a real pleasure to be joined by Bliss. Do you got that?

Bliss

Thank you. Yep, that's pretty much right. Thank you.

Craig

So much so you're a PhD candidate and a tech officer at the media school at University of Tasmania. But I've mainly brought you in to talk about your exciting PhD that you're already in your second year of. Environmental representation in the age of ephemeral communication. Is that right?

Bliss

Yeah, that's pretty much.

Craig

It so you're in your second year and I'll read the abstract. Go for it to to warm up our analysis. So the abstract for this thesis, which is usually like a three to six year adventure.

Bliss

Pretty much.

Craig

So the abstract reads communicating environmental issues has traditionally been a mass activity through protests and campaigns to get the attention of wider audiences via the news media cycle. However, the media landscape has transmogrified. That work? Yeah, with the introduction of social media recently, the ephemeral feature of temporary 24 hours stories first, of course, on Snapchat, then on Instagram, which enables users to share short lived content with selected public, who typically might share spontaneous how's my Co host? I wouldn't. I don't know if he has a key. Yes, he does. All right, spontaneous co-host appearance. Hi. So yeah, joined now by Lord Taylor. I should I send you? I should give you a title. So you finished your honours. Yeah. So you could be Hons this ONS Sandhu. Mr Sandhu. Sandy or you can just call.

Bliss

Me, please. Yeah, pretty easy and simple.

Craig

OK, first names this time, so please, this is Taylor.

Bliss

Hello, how are you? Nice to meet you.

Craig

We're bringing people together on the show. I'm just finishing up Bliss's wonderful abstract on the environmental representation in the age of ephemeral communication. So you end up your abstract by saying in Tasmania sharing visual imagery of nature landscapes has become a prominent trend among social media users. I'd agree. What kind? And you're asking these questions, I guess. So what kind of effect do such ephemeral stories have on social media? And then the study explores how and why people represent the Tasmanian wilderness in their stories on platforms such as Instagram, Snapchat, and be real and implications towards environmental attitudes and awareness towards conversational debates conservational. Yeah. And I said is that. Still accurate.

Bliss

Yeah, yeah, yeah, that's pretty accurate. So one of the leading scholars in environmental comps, Anders Hansen. He mentioned that whenever we come across environment in any mediated format, then it's an environmental representation and it deserves to be studied as such and it has broader implications. So imagery is something that has not really been studied by the discipline yet or.

Craig

So this is imagery, it is.

Bliss

Photos and videos and those sort of things, and the literature that is out there on imagery relating to evil. Is pretty much about stock images and stuff like that, so the ones that I used in news articles or you know in. Everyday stock images that you go for the advertised tourism sort of photos and stuff. Like that, yes. And people don't really connect to that because they don't know the context of it. They don't know where the place is. They it's, you know, the photographed is the way it is photographed is like, you know, long exposures with highly saturated colours and everything else. And it doesn't feel real. Like it becomes hyper real in a way so. That's a very interesting point and.

Craig

So as soon as yes. So you're saying as soon as you start putting philtres the the cat emoji on faces? You know you. You you're kind of making it hyper real.

Bliss

Not necessarily with everyday users, but primarily with like professional photography. And you know the. That are used for tourism, TAS, for example, or something like that. Like you know, those highly saturated images or some. Another they are not necessarily always relatable to people because, say, photo of Trail Mountain in Tasmania makes sense in Australia probably makes sense, but if you're showing it to someone in Indonesia or something like that, they will be like that. Looks beautiful, but I don't know where that is and I don't connect to it and everything else we don't know who took that photo. Is it even real or is it an AI generated stuff? Or was it from a still? From a film or something like. And my research is now looking at like regular people like yourself, myself, yourself. You know, we take photos and we share it on our social media platforms, on on stories and stories is perceived as a platform that you're sharing your everyday life right there. And then it's very spontaneous. It's an activity, if not of that particular moment, but of that day at least. So it's like really recent associates presence. So if someone shares a photo like my friend says, shares a photo of Long Beach right now, then I know it's Long Beach and they're having fun and they're over there.

Craig

So that's.

Bliss

And if like 20 of your friends do that over a period of one or something of that, like, are you also more oriented to go outdoors? Are you also more oriented to be environmental? And sort of activities and stuff like.

Craig

That. OK, so a couple of questions. So I I I I I'm feeling like this idea of authenticity seems to be useful here, right? That that it's you've got this kind of hyper real professional photography. Level of of Tasmanian wilderness image representation. But then you have this kind of social media. You're using your camera. You're not trained as a photographer necessarily. And you, you. You've you've had a moment in wilderness in nature. I I don't know if you've had many moments.

Bliss

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Craig

But and then. You capture it, make it authentic. And then there's a kind of you capture it, but it's kind of not polished and and and and and it's it's a story that then.

Taylor

Sharing. Yeah, it's very much the middle ground because you've got like, the highly polished photos, then you've got the Instagram photos, which still have got the philtres on them, and then you've got this new is it called be? Real app that's around.

Bliss

Yeah. Yeah, that's well.

Craig

Yeah. Be real. Yeah, I tried that. That's the one where you get an alert saying dig a photo. Do it right now. So you're also looking at that?

Bliss

So the way I conducted my research was I let the participants, you know, use whatever platforms that they use and continue with their regular use it for like one month and after one month I asked them to submit the stories that they posted.

Craig

And so this is the data. So to get this data your your project was set up around a sample set of X number of of users no.

Bliss

So we just invited people to participate who are currently living in Tasmania, so either if they are on exchange from Europe for like 6 months or something like that or they've been born here and raised up here or they moved from mainland. Doesn't matter as long as you're in Tasmania for that particular one months time, you are eligible to. Participate when was that?

Craig

What was that one?

Bliss

Month. Ohh so it just very because it ran. It was an iterative study so it varied for every single individual. Yeah. And so we've got people.

Craig

My gosh, yeah. Ah, right. Right. So that one month is the duration.

Bliss

At which? Yeah, so but it spends like choose their own time frame, whichever felt comfort. Some signed the consent form earlier in Jan or something like that, and then they didn't start their participation until like June and at July they submitted me the stories for that one month period and then we had. An intern and stuff like.

Craig

That how did they capture? Sorry, Taylor.

Taylor

I just said I wish I knew about it, because then I would have joined it and then just had no photos for the entire.

Bliss

Year that's happened. So that's one of the points I try to make, like I don't want people to exaggerate that. And that's the entire reason why I asked them to be casual. And you know, you can sign up early. You can decide in too much time. And everything else and you. Do not exaggerate that and we have participants who have posted 172 voters, and we also participants who have not posted. Anything at all.

Craig

How did they hand the data like? Did they do little like they'd post it to Instagram or Facebook and then to send that to you? Would they do a screen capture of their Facebook page? That post.

Bliss

So yeah, that's that's why I was mentioning about my data collection method. So most of my participants have used Instagram for these stories. One or two have occasionally mentioned Snapchat, but that's not there primarily for posting photos. It's just for one to one communication about silly things or, you know the friendships that they have. And the Instagram allows you to access your archives, so everything that you've posted on your Instagram stories and everything else can be accessed from your archives. So they just go back, access their archives, save the stories of that one month period, and then send it to me through a cloud folder or something like that. And then we just talk about those photos or videos and. The general motivations and experiences and what interpretations they make when their friends post that sort of imagery and everything else. So that's how I click on my.

Craig

Right. So quite a broad. Yeah. Well, let let's let's define key terms. What? So Tasmanian wilderness features really significantly in the project, right? So is it capturing or it's just environments? So how?

Bliss

There's it's Tasmanian wilderness, it's Tasmanian, so the concept of wilderness and environment is so vague and it's so subjective.

Craig

Do we define?

Bliss

Like, how do you count a tree in the middle of a city like? Is that environment is. It I don't know. I let the. Parents decide, so I just gave them this, you know, idea that you know, whatever you consider as environment can be counted into my research. And so whatever you post and whatever you think qualifies as environment, send it through and some have. Them have, you know, posted about crater more and quarterback. Some of them have gone to, like, not lofty or something or, you know, 7 miles beach. For some, it has just been around Salamanca Centre. Yeah, and.

Craig

What's the? So it's like built environment at that point. If they're taking or is it still like a tree installment or?

Bliss

Stuff like that.

Craig

Is that environment?

Bliss

Well, nobody has really sent me. Cat photos or something? Like that and I think I.

Craig

04888117077.

Bliss

Yeah. So the way they defined environment was you know. Like that's the Tassie Ness, I think where where people associate with environment quite a bit with outdoors quite a bit and outdoor activities quite a bit and that's what most of my data has reflected so far. I'm here to analyse it and still early ages to talk about those sort of things, but my research broadly is looking at so when you represent those, why do you represent environment in the first case? Like if you are and from a big city and people from like mainland have mentioned in my interviews that. Back home, it's more about bodies and social outings and you know, dinners and festivals and all those sort of things that they post about, but in Tassie it's more about they still do that sort of things but it's more about nature. It's more about going outdoors, on hikes, on mountain bikes, and it doesn't necessarily have to be a very spectacular landmark or spot. They are pushing. It's like, literally the rivulet sort of a thing. Like it's right next to you. It's so accessible to you. And they all note it down to accessibility to nature and how they are proud to share. That this is how we see Tasmania and it's beautiful and it's nature and stuff like that, and people have varied backgrounds like some are activists, some are, you know, they don't really necessarily have such strong beliefs and conservational debates and stuff like that. And they've all mentioned similar sort of motivations like we want to promote the beauty and stuff like that. And some are obviously you know that. More explicit in this sort of resharing Bob Brown foundation posts and stuff like that, and very open about their beliefs and everything else, but the others are, you know, more subtle. And the stories is seen as a platform for like a window into your everyday life, like raw spontaneous lifestyle and everything else. And Australian. Photography history is such like, you know, they all. Not just Australian, but in general it's being like you know, you portray a very utopian vision and a very, you know, sort of a painting, sort of an image, like painting inspired our landscape photography, basically. So whatever the paintings depicted back in the day, that's what the photographer started depicting. And that's what's continued to this day. So even photos from period and broski's, for example. Like, you know, very scenic, landscape beauty and stuff like that. But when you're. You know, sharing that you are engaging and you are right in that moment and how your activity or how you relate to the environment like. If you were. Surfing right now then I know what sort of a person you are. That's sort of associate. You associate yourself to those sort of, you know, activities. You express your pride. That's what you do on your free time and stuff like that. And then you continue posting that over three months or four months or years since I've known you or something like that then. I'm also, you know, inclined to do that with you and to be part of your friendship.

Craig

Circle it is interesting. I mean, yeah, I think there's a couple of things going on there that are really interesting. One is that kind of dominant. Idea of wilderness that we're talking about. So how that has a history in itself a dominant idea of a landscape painting. And photography of landscape and so forth. But then also the kind of idea of maybe a an Nick poultry might refer to it as a as an action space, right, that opens up in the environment. So when you're on a mountain bike. You've mentioned a couple of sports type things like there seems to be like you know, there there'd be there'd be some environmental photos that would be shared where? It's the environment enabling. Action right where they're they're they're. Performing that it's is, is is that the case, right? I mean, you're talking about stories that are shared is, is there a kind of action that you're finding is linked to the environment or is it passive, right, just a photo of of a passive object?

Bliss

Yeah, it's like so. When people take photos and post it on their stories, it is implied that they are the. Author and they are the one taking the photo, so it's very unlikely that they will feature in them unless and until.

Craig

It's a selfie. Are there many selfies with selfies?

Bliss

And that's a very interesting point, because all of my parents, parents, 100% of them, hate selfies, and they've never really taken selfies and.

Craig

That was a question, yeah. How do. You feel about selfies.

Bliss

And I just asked them. Like I saw the photos and I was like. So I've noticed you haven't posted any selfies. And everyone was like, I don't really like posting selfies unless or until they are like with a group of friends. And they are all taking one. Then some of them might take it, but otherwise they just hate it. They would rather give their phone to someone else and get them to take their photo. And I was like, that's quite an interesting.

Craig

Do you take selfies? Yes.

Bliss

Right. I'm not really that handsome to take selfies, but as a photographer, I like to be behind the lens, but yeah.

Craig

Tailor selfies. What's your stance?

Taylor

No, never. Last time because Selfie was about six years ago.

Craig

I I do take selfies. Continually, I mean, I'm doing literally a YouTube.

Speaker

OK.

Craig

So one could say certain psychological things there, but we won't because we're unqualified. But nevertheless, I do feel that selfie dominated the narrative of social media for so long. Yeah. So it's intriguing to me that there are 0 selfies there. I mean, is it because they're a little self-conscious about being? Involved in a research project that there's a certain kind of. I don't want him to research my face.

Bliss

The thing is like the way I designed my research, it was they didn't have any obligation to submit me anything like they could have easily selected whatever they share or whatever they don't share and stuff like that. And there was literally no. Reason for them to lie. So I don't think that's the case. But in general, as a photographer myself, I think the compression of your front camera is not the best and it doesn't really look great.

Craig

True, right?

Bliss

And that's probably one of the reasons why people are probably drifting away from it or.

Craig

Yeah. I mean, what is, I mean, I guess the, I mean again you were you were hinting at this idea of authenticity. I mean, putting yourself in the photo does ground it somewhat in authenticity saying this, this is me in this space right now. Legitimately here, right. It's a kind of like drop moment of saying, you know, I didn't get this off the Internet. Unless I've photoshopped myself into the photo, I'm here, I mean.

Bliss

I think that's where these stories come into play, because it is. Very interesting, because people assume whenever you post on story, if it's a photo, they assume that you are the author of it and you have taken it and you've taken it very recently within a day, if not within minutes or.

Craig

Seconds. The etiquette and protocol of so, yeah, OK.

Bliss

Yeah, it's really interesting and they feel like if they post a selfie over there or they have their own face, then they're taking away from the beauty of the landscape that they're trying to share and the beauty. Of the nature and everything else.

Craig

Psychology again. Yeah. Self. Yeah. Floating.

Bliss

Action. It's really interesting.

Craig

It is interesting that that you'd see. I mean, I put myself in all my photos because I think I.

Bliss

But the other thing is like. I think when you are probably out hiking and you've been hiking for three days, you probably don't want to take a. Photo of yourself. You probably want the photo of the view from yours from where you are, and it's also like an accomplishment sort of thing.

Craig

That's good.

Bliss

Like if you climbed up a mountain or something like that or feds peak and then it's like documenting your presence and everything else. So a lot of other theories come into play. Like, is it a ritualistic? Expectation, like if you're visiting Tasmania, do you have to take a photo every single time you're outdoors? Otherwise the experience may not. Have happened at all.

Craig

I like that term ritual. I do think that and by ritual it's almost, I don't know, I I. I mean, there's value judgments around that term in terms of if it is a purely A ritual, then you're you're, are you going through the motions that this is something you're feeling compelled to do out of expectations? Is it. I mean, how did you explore this idea of?

Bliss

Observation and content analysis and then interviews are part of my. So that's my what do you call the triangulation of methods and what we found was like this varied behaviour and not everyone takes photos in one singular way like this. Slow photography behaviour where they spend a lot of time observing the nature, spending time composing the picture, getting the right one, and they are. The the concept of romantic gaze comes into it like touristic gaze. Yeah, so they develop. Yeah. So they spend a lot of time, and that's why a lot of Muppetry spends also use film cameras. Yeah.

Craig

That's right. Slow photography. Ohh like has the. No, not not the D they dropped the D and it sent SL.

Bliss

Yeah, just just an SLR with the 35 millimetre.

Craig

Film we're talking 19.

Bliss

Yeah, yeah, it's coming back and.

Craig

Really. Seriously. Film start. You go into Kmart and they say they don't have film. Stop processing so you have to go to a. A boutique space, I imagine, to get it processed.

Bliss

Yeah, nowadays there are a couple of shops that do that and we also have a dark room in the uni so you can do that.

Craig

We wow.

Bliss

I developed film the other day. It was really fun. So yeah, film photography is coming back, which is exciting.

Craig

Again, during my cassette tapes, my cassette tapes while I'm in the dark.

Speaker

But yeah.

Taylor

Basically, yeah, yeah.

Craig

Room watching the PC.

Bliss

That's that's the dream. So yeah, it's very varied behaviour. The way people engage in photography when they're outdoors, and it's not a question of. Whether or not they photograph outdoors, it's how much they photograph when they're outdoors, so it is.

Craig

Just about you use the term slow photography. Which I really like. So so this is where the participant kind of literally slows down. It becomes meditative and they allow, I mean, what what's what's the process that what? What's slow photography? In your research.

Bliss

So one method is like you take out your phone, you take a photo and you continue walking and. Then run. And go method right?

Craig

Then fast. Well then.

Bliss

That's one. And go. Yeah, that's fast. You don't really care. You don't really care about the composition and stuff like that. You pull out your camera, it's already set on whatever angle you take a photo and you move on because you don't want to *** **** on your hip. That is 1 method. The other method is.

Craig

That's running good.

Bliss

Group influence. So when you are, say, at the Marion's lookout at cradle, everyone take outs their phone and then are you also applies to take out your phone because that's everyone what's doing and you are the one or not taking. Photos over there. Yeah. And then it's the slow photography. When people sort of find a very secluded spot, develop a very romantic sort of relationship. And you know, if anyone else comes in, then that ruins their relationship of that moment, sort of a thing. So it's not the touristic gaze. Now it's a romantic gaze.

Craig

That's interesting. Yeah. Romantic. As opposed to touristic, which is? That group.

Bliss

Yeah, John Uray mentioned about touristic gaze as well. So that's pretty much when you develop a very spiritual sort of relationship with the object of gaze and then that's how you photograph it, you try to wait for the right composition or the weather or the wind or the light you set the focal length very carefully and you know, it may not be very landscape. It may be very close up of a leaf or something like that on the ground. Or you're waiting for one battle. I don't know. You know it can't be something like. That and that.

Taylor

I've found myself doing that actually, and it's like as soon as somebody else comes along the tracks. Like it's ruined. It's ruined. Yeah, yeah.

Craig

Even though they're not in the shocks. They're less the the atmosphere, the the sense of embodying. Yeah, yeah. Because you're probably being like, yeah, I mean at one level again, there's this self consciousness that you're now. Part of someone else's gaze at. You. Yeah. And what? What's what? I mean, that's an interesting.

Bliss

It's all visually dominated, like you start your hike with the plan or with the intention that you'll get a view or you'll take photos and then you go on the hike for the views. Then you share it on a platform because it's beautiful and it's for the views and stuff like that and it's all ephemeral as well, nature is. 5 minutes from now, the weather outside will not be the same. The light will be different and you're capturing that and then you're sharing it on a femoral platform. So it's really interesting how visually dominated it.

Craig

Is. Yeah, because your title emphasises that ephemeral communication, but you feel that that ephemeral communicates that concept. Ephemerality speaks to. That constant acceptance of change, I mean, many people don't accept that, except that change happens, right? Many people kind of like, no, I've captured this forever. And many people would argue that that. You know, social media taking photos takes you out of that moment, right? You're you're not kind of immersed in it. This would be what some.

Bliss

Would you like? That's a very interesting question. Would you say it is a distraction from your experience or an extension of your experience?

Craig

Well it, I mean, I felt I felt, I mean I I felt a difference as soon as I bring a camera lens up to my eye, I feel different. In terms of, you're physically different, right? I'm suddenly restricted and towards what I'm looking at now. So before I had my whole eyesight looking at a space and then I've now bought a camera up in front of me and yeah, I I would. I would say that it has come between you and that or it it's. Altered it. I mean, in your sense it's it's made it a female. It's changed it. It's changed visually what it is because you're now no longer looking at it through your eyes, but looking at it through a lens, which means you're not getting the same view anymore. It is different. And also, yeah, I I kind of feel more objective suddenly in that space.

Bliss

Yeah, that's that's a fair observation I think. But it speaks to the fact that we are visually motivated, like it goes back to the dates of putting windows on your barn houses. Like because it's a view, it's a landscape and you want to see it visually, the Chicago buildings. Back in 1880s or whenever they were built, you were looking down and you were separated from all other senses, like you couldn't see. You could see the people downstairs, but you couldn't hear or smell or touch the same surroundings as them. And that's how Visuality has been separated from other senses for a long, long time. And this is just a byproduct of that. Like visually, we have been separated from. You know, visual visuality is the way we interact with the world like that is the first sense we, you know, engage. And now photography is just part of that. And then we just take a photo to look at it for longer data on. Down the line.

Craig

It's a tangent. It's really interesting cause I know we've been talking about AI for a long time on this show. And and you were talking about landscape painting. And one of the things that people have referenced with the impact of AI is by saying, hey, hey, hey. We've always experienced disruptive technologies in the space of art. And one of the biggest disruptive technologies many people point to was photography. You know, we had landscape paintings, we had portraiture. Yeah. And that industry didn't disappear. I mean, in terms of painting didn't disappear after photography it it changed, but photography was considered to. Be you know. Such a disruption.

Bliss

So that is a very good point because as a freelancer, I feel myself very confronted because I am not a big fan of AI and I don't think the way it generates portraits and everything else is a very good thing for photography. At least we photograph.

Craig

It's real. There have been a number of awards won, but.

Bliss

Yeah. And they have been declined as well by the people who won the award. So that was quite interesting to see. The thing is, like painting used to be like realistic painting was, you know, the standard, and that's what they tried to portray back in their landscapes and everything else. And then photography came along and they were like, so camera was the the. What's the name of the scholar? Who wrote about Sontag. So Sontag mentioned that photography was invented with the promise of, you know, depicting truth. And that's it, the absolute truth. And that's where painting and everything else had to adjust. And they were like, so we can't really paint the realistic images anymore. We can be more abstract and more express ourselves in different ways. And then the perception of photography being absolute truth is sometimes still very problematic to nowadays.

Craig

In many ways, that's what AI is introducing. Yeah, that that myth of photography being true. Has finally been problematized by the fact that various AI photographs or various photographs have shown to be AI and have, you know, played into that idea, that it is truthful and.

Bliss

I think it's not a very recent phenomenon like I think the if you go into the history of photography and the theory of photography, it's very apparent. From the very beginning, you had the option to exclude what you want from the frame. You exclude the content like elephant outside the frame. That's the phrase that we use sometimes, and we've also got people who used to cut film photographs, put them together and make a very different photo, like war photos and stuff like that.

Craig

And yeah, World War One, wasn't it? One like like all those photos were basically montages.

Bliss

People were.

Craig

Yeah, yeah. Reflect the.

Bliss

Emotion. Yeah, of. And one of the photographers was commissioned to photograph as a document document. They wore through photography, and that's what he came up with. And. They were like, is it ethical? Like is it?

Craig

Because he montaged. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Post production, you know.

Bliss

He photoshopped before it was.

Craig

Photoshop. Yeah. He put aeroplanes in the sky which went there. Explosions.

Bliss

Yeah, smoke and everything else. And he was.

Craig

In the frame that went there.

Bliss

Like it may not be the direct representation of what happened, but that was the experience everyone was going through, yeah.

Craig

A notion the which, which brings it back.

Bliss

To. So that's what I'm saying. Like photography are like people sometimes perceive photography to be the absolute truth, like one photo is the absolute truth, and there's nothing to debate about it or nothing to, you know, consider beyond it. But that's never been the case. And then AI comes into it, and it's basically trying to replicate photography instead of.

Craig

Well, it's been trained on photographs, right?

Bliss

So it's the way it samples is it takes because it's only a code and it can only generate stuff from whatever the database is out there. Like it doesn't have a brain of its own right now, like it's only sampling from like. All right, so if you put in, I want a Canon 6D photo in this colour. In this sort of theme, a close up of this person. And it's just sampling everything that is out there in the pool of Internet and then it makes it from there.

Craig

That just while you've mentioned that this is one of the most amazing things I found, I don't know how you've found it, Taylor, but when I was going through the Reddit posts about how to create mid journey images, which I have so many now of. Anyway, what I found fascinating was the language that they put in, like some of the real kind of what they refer to themselves as prompt engineers would put in, which would be this high tech photography language of, you know, particular model, particular make of camera particular F.

Taylor

Yeah, yeah.

Craig

But particular focus particular like like basically the literacy of photography far beyond any lake experience. But the impression being as a user.

Speaker

Yeah, exactly.

Craig

Ohh I I I need to know or copy and. Paste that in. I don't know what that. Creates, yeah.

Bliss

So that's what I'm saying. Like, as long as it's trying to replicate photography, I don't think it's the best use of the. Tool. Either it's not helpful for AI, it's not helpful for the people who are using AI to make money or whatever, or the photographers like it's not helping anyone art form and it can do its own thing on the site.

Craig

It's kind of, yeah.

Bliss

Like, why does it have to replicate?

Craig

I mean, it's often the case in that it must be the case in that transition moment, like early cinema. Kind of. You know, drew a lot upon theatrical routes. So there's a lot of theatre in early cinema, which looks really clunky now and you thinking why they're not moving the camera. I mean, a lot of it's technological. Invasions, but at the same time, yeah, it's that kind of messy middle space of using the language technology laws of a previous platform theatre or or photography or or painting to still try and use this new technology but not really understanding what.

Bliss

It's really interesting because some of the artists I followed they put in like terms of Kodak 400 film and stuff like that. I was like, why wouldn't you just get the film and shoot it?

Craig

On that, why would you put it through? Yeah, it's. Yeah. It's so interesting. The kind of fetishistic nature of those prompts revealing. Thing, certain kind of cultural capital narratives, right. I think a lot of it is performative. When you look at and we're. Going down a really. Yeah, but no.

Bliss

It's it's. It's really interesting as a portrait photographer, like when I see AI images and I'm like, that's not even a real person. So what's the message that you're trying to? What's the story that you're trying to tell? Like, you know, we photographers try to tell a story through our image. Or images or selection of images or something. What's the story over there with AI? Like the stories my people, my participants have posted, or, you know, people in general do tell the story that this is where we are. This is the experience we are having. We are proud of it. This is our association and stuff like that and tells a lot of story about it and that's what photography is with. AI, what's the? Story. Yeah.

Craig

I mean, yeah, there's a disruptive story obviously, and the the people that have won those competitions are doing it disruptively, they've they've they've returned the prize because they've done that kind of. You know, grand gesture to be the first to achieve that, send it through performative and but to bring it back to bring bring back to your your project. When I was reading through the abstract ideas, it did remind me of a couple of years ago I I don't know if you remember this article in the. Website But this was back in 2018 and 2019, so it may not have come across in your research, but it talks about in Mount Wellington. The fact that there's this object called the the Tarn Tarn, which is this OK, you know this? Yeah. Disappearing tan, right? Which is this blue pool?

Bliss

Yeah, disappearing down. It's really famous and I think every single participant of mine has mentioned. It really times in their interview.

Craig

Yeah, I had no idea about this. It got mentioned in the ABC back in 2018, headline was disappearing time on Mount Wellington Springs Springs into life. After deluge so. Requires water, like a rainfall to hit a particular location, which then brings back to life. This amazing pool that.

Taylor

Now, how big is the pool of cause? I've not heard of that.

Craig

Ohh it's I I have not been there. I mean the photos seem to suggest it's it's kind of big. You know there you go. Alright. OK. Yeah.

Bliss

It's not like it used to be very pristine and sort of that romantic gay sort of moment for people who went there. But then ABC had other stories. You know, other news agency started posting about it and then we had mastering over there.

Craig

Wow. And you know where I'm going. So the the article goes. On to say social media bringing Shutterbugs right. So Mr. James said this quoting from that, Mister James said it had changed a lot since his last visit in 2016. The water is definitely higher. Two years ago, nobody was there. It was just me and my mates. It's interesting to see how much more popular it's got as a result of word of mouth exposure, and then he says Instagram. Yeah. And then a year later, hold on. When? How? Many years later this. Is this is an article now from 2020, so two years after the first article. It goes Hobart rain refills disappearing mountain, Tara top. But it specifically talks about how social media is leading to concerns about this location now being a victim of its own popularity, as people are rushing to it to. Get that? Yeah. How did your?

Bliss

They had to take it off from the. Google Maps yeah, cause it's Geo.

Craig

Yeah, which is the headache here, right? It's not just taking the photo, it's geotagging.

Bliss

Yeah. Yeah. A lot of people now in my research have like, I talk about them about text and tagging and stuff like that in their images, and they don't geotag anymore. And they're like, for the same reasons they want to protect it.

Craig

Or even the men.

Bliss

But it's also like a treasure hunt sort of effect. Like I found this location, you know, if you ask me, you direct message me directly I will tell you but. You know that's like a sub reflex, sort of a movement for them. And they're like, oh, yeah, we found that. And we are outdoors and we explored and this is our achievement.

Craig

Did you come across any of this data in your research? This kind of treasure hunt?

Bliss

Yeah, yeah, yeah. That's. I'm speaking from my interviews. Like that was the.

Craig

Right. So they would say. Look, I mean, yeah. How would that play?

Bliss

It's really interesting because the Instagram posts that you are referring to is like a regular feed that stays on there forever and a lot of influencers use that, and then you geotag it and stuff like that, like. You can still.

Craig

This is the.

Bliss

Tan. Yeah, we're talking about the tan at the moment, so you can search it up right now on your Instagram and put. Disappearing down over there and then you'll see thousands of images. Yeah, that's the regular Instagram feed that we're talking about. That stays there unless and until you've deleted it, or, you know, made it otherwise. And that's from the public accounts and that's where the influencers and all the other people come in. My research was looking at stories which is gone in 24 hours and it's only.

Craig

Right.

Bliss

With and, I'm looking at regular people who most of them have private accounts. And so they, they all say, like we are not going to cause mass tourism because it's literally. Like right? 50 people and half of them, and like in mainland or something like that and they still don't geotag and everything.

Craig

Else so they specifically use very ephemeral platforms disappear.

Bliss

Yes, just for that sort of reason. Yeah, like they still want to share that moment that we found it. We had this experience. This is beautiful. This is what we associate with. This is our achievement this. Is our pride. But then it's gone. It's like a subtle sort of effect. So stories is like a highlight of their day. And then there are posts. Nowadays they mention is like a highlight of like three to four months where they've just photo dump every three or four months and put like 10 photos of whatever they did throughout the past three months.

Craig

What is the? Because you were mentioning the etiquette and protocols around? Social media photos that most people assume that a photo that's coming up is reasonably recent, yeah, but you've mentioned there that some people will put a kind of.

Bliss

So a story is considered recent, so it was taken Instagram, Instagram story.

Craig

This is on. Really, I put storeys up and they disappear. I'm just completely illiterate.

Bliss

I think it's really interesting. Because my age range, my participants age range went from all the way from 20 to 64. And everyone had different experiences at different age groups and stuff like that, but they were still posted about nature and stuff like that.

Craig

Right.

Bliss

It's really interesting because, you know people in their 40s with children were like, oh, yeah, it's mostly dominated by children and outdoors people in. Yeah. Like, you know, if they are recent, they have toddlers and stuff like that.

Craig

And and children, it's their children they're taking.

Bliss

The share a fair bit about them and then it's about the environment and then the 20 something people are like, you know, oh, yeah, it's about, you know, going out with friends and stuff like that sometimes. But then it's outdoors, so every person was like this and then outdoors. This and then outdoors. So that's quite interesting as well.

Taylor

Do you think more people are taking these environmental photos after COVID, where they've been inside and forced to not be able to take photos of anything beyond their own home?

Bliss

That's an interesting question. Like I talked to them, when did they start posting stories? Or, you know, when did they start posting about the outdoor stuff and everything else? Most of them mentioned. That they started posting stories as soon as the feature came out, which was around. That 1617, I think on Instagram around 2016 or 17 before that it was only on Snapchat. And gradually they all started posting about the activities that they do throughout the day and in Tasmania just happens to be the the nature is so accessible and there's the cultural hegemony of outdoors, I believe. So can I dive a bit into that?

Craig

Or oh gosh, Max, I I know my my experience. Max's theory is what use value exchange value we're talking about value.

Bliss

Now, so we're talking about ideology. So Marx had this idea that the ruling class controls people by controlling the ideas. So what will happen is when the ruling class is overthrown by the proletariats and then they will, you know, implement their own ideology and that will, you know, help us and every that's how the new will be. Yeah. So hegemony comes a bit later and then Graham C came along. Antonio Gramsci was the 2nd generation Marxist and he was like. The idea ideas. So in a society they will be create creative individuals and they will come up with new ideas and then those new new ideas will lead to revolution. And that's how you know the new World World order will come to be. So there's a difference. Like Mark said, there will be a revolution 1st and then there will be new. And Gramps, he was like now the first there will be new ideas and then they will be widely accepted by everyone and then it will become a common sense. A cultural hegemony. Yeah. And that's where. Yeah. And then Althusser came along and he was like, ideas are manifested in everyday practises like, you know. And they are controlled by social apparatus.

Taylor

Like in that case.

Bliss

Schools. Religion. All the sort of things. So we are basically responding to that ideology all the time. So the ideas are the ones that control us. So we can never really come up with those new ideas because. We are constituted by the ideas, so it's really interesting. So is in Tasmania, are we constituted by those environmental ideas and is that just the practise that we respond to or are we trying to create new ideas when we take photos and you know, share about the activities that we do? So it's really interesting to.

Craig

I could imagine, again, unpacking particular examples of these stories and photos. Would be helped by certain theoretical tools. So for example like I'm thinking well, in the case of the tan right. So there we have a set of of photos which are hyper real using that term. Because they're they're done by experts. And then they're they're spread and they end up in an ABC News article. Right. So at that point that they're in the ABC News article, these images and the, the, the journalists framing of it. Is going to sit where I mean in terms of unpacking that or I mean I guess that's a bit away from your data. I mean within the town, was there any connection with marks? There that we could explore.

Bliss

Every person like. People who moved from mainland, especially young people in their early 20s, and they were like we want to make friends and you know, they already were tiny bit into outdoors and everything else but. They did did post more about going out, going into those kind of wilderness places, on hikes and everything else, so that. Their local friends over here would be more would acknowledge them a bit more, would recognise them as one of us, and that's how they feel that they can integrate into that friendship group. But that's not consistent with every single party. And so I don't know how I'll analyse that and how I'll comment on that, but that has been a theme that has been mentioned by a couple of young participants.

Craig

I mean, maybe a different angle would be. I mean for me as a immigrants to Tasmania from the mainland who will never be Tasmanian. It's always strike me as odd that you. Have this discourse of Tasmania being this amazingly pure, pristine wilderness environment, and this is a very tired argument. But yeah, on one hand you've got that, and it's also dovetailing into this climate change narrative that Tessa is going to be the lifeboat of the world, right. We're going to be protected from some of this worse climate change. If X if X and yeah, there's these exiles coming down here. Climate change exiles these narratives anyway, and then you've got that and then you've got the idea that Tassie has a history of pollution, right? It has zinc smelters, it has salmon farm. I mean again, this is the discourse around it. People that are saying that there's various various moments where we seem to pollute this environment, that we don't seem to at all care about the right, the logging industry. Is this is this a moment that Marx could help with? I mean, this kind of, I mean this ideological right. I mean, at one hand you've got jobs. And you've got narratives of of the environment is exploitable and you've got really old myths of of humans versus nature. And humans can control nature. And then yeah, you've got this tourist narrative, which is also very. Yeah. And then you've got a. Activist. Yeah, narrative. Did anyone get political in your? Oh, yeah.

Bliss

Yeah. Yeah, pretty much 99% of my participants are greens, water and very vocal about it. Or at least very conservational aware and stuff like that. And I think that's just the way I advertised my research. So that's just the limitation that we have to acknowledge.

Craig

So it did draw in a particular political.

Bliss

Yeah, yeah, yeah. So everyone's heart pretty, pretty, clear intentions of, you know, we. Trying to promote conservational debates and you know, associate our identity and our political stance like. This is where we stand on conservation and this is where we stand with the environment and this is what we you know. Associated with, but that's funny. Like if everyone is greens oriented, then we still don't have a Green Party and party in power and Tasmania and that just speaks to the fact that everyone may love the environment and as he and outdoors and everything else, but they may not necessarily be on the same board when it comes to. Political lineations and greens and. Conservation and stuff like that.

Taylor

So Greens voters don't like to take selfies. That's what I've got. Out of this.

Bliss

That's not fair. Well, I. Did get some not green voters in my inspections and they still didn't accept it? Sorry go.

Craig

But what did they? For it. Oh, so the was there any data about non kind of? Left green. The wilderness narrative. Donald Trump times. Yeah, Donald Trump.

Bliss

I didn't really get anyone who was far right wing or. Something like that. We were pretty much left to to central and central left. Yeah. So we didn't really get any right wing perspective.

Craig

I mean, what are we imagining? That narrative is the guy with the chainsaw.

Bliss

We did have a good restaurant who had one of their relatives who was very right wing and they were like when I share photos and stuff like that and then I have interactions with them later down the line and they're like, this is actually beautiful. Like, they had to go on and look.

Speaker

I got a little bit.

Bliss

A piece of land. And they were like that was untouched. And that's when they felt like this is. Yeah, that should not have been. Yeah, clear at all. So there are those moments, and those stories really do start those conversations. Like people. I asked participants if they talk about them. Like, did you see what XY and Z posted the other day and stuff like that and it starts a conversation. And that's pretty much what we can ask for in communications to start a conversation.

Craig

Were there any? Yeah, it's very interesting. Yeah. Cause, were there any particular case studies that seem to emerge or present themselves or or specific examples? I know that the timeline was rather broad, but were there any kind of fault lines that you saw were in common and we mentioned the time, but were there any other?

Bliss

I'm still transcribing my interview, so I'm only halfway through, so there will be a few examples that I miss and everything else but the other day I was going through data and one of the buddies mentioned that they get a bit upset if. Their friends, who went on a hike and they didn't invite them, and then they posted it on this story. And I was like, that is interesting. So there's like that associated to, you know, groups of friends and then activities.

Craig

So you.

Bliss

And then there are, like so many other social elements to it as well, which. People don't really think about when they are posting stories and everything else.

Craig

Yeah. Again, that idea of the complexity. All of storytelling, then, that person posting that had a story in mind that didn't involve alienating a friend but a result of it has nevertheless been. The kind of miscommunication for that friend feeling like they were left out. Of a group tour.

Bliss

Yeah, I think that's where the theory of. Representation and theory of interpretation and everything else comes into play, like the way we decode a message like Stuart Hall talks about it in cultural studies. The way we decode a message, it can be in a dominant way where we take the message as it was intended and then negotiated way where we take it. In an opposed way, we we accept it in certain instances, but not in every. And then the opposed way. So it's really interesting how they negotiate meanings and everything else and attribute their own meanings to. The yeah. No, that's.

Craig

Quite great, because in this case. Is the dominant meaning, I mean the one that the sender is is establishing is is his celebrate me and my photo of wilderness isn't this good, but the resistant reading is the friend that got left out saying no no no I resist your dominant narrative of saying this is good. In fact this was bad. And let me post this frowny face. And I kind. Of you know, you said you were. You said you were busy that.

Bliss

We thought we were friends.

Craig

Yeah, but then what would a negotiated? Meaning be it would be. You know, we messaged you, you didn't.

Bliss

Get it negotiated? Meaning. I don't know. It's quite interesting because one of the examples would be video games like you accept violence in video games in GTA and something like that, but you wouldn't do the same actions in real life. So that's like a. Negotiated meaning you, you.

Craig

Say it's bad, but yeah, it's good. Yeah. Right. Because I can tell the difference between fiction and reality, right? It's bad because I don't want to have violence towards women. Not. Nevertheless, in this game it's a fake game. Yeah, and a fake individual. It's fiction. Yeah, it's not real.

Bliss

Exactly. So I don't know where that will sit in my research as of yet, but.

Craig

Yeah, well, I negotiated reading. Might be, you know, don't take it personally.

Bliss

But that's always just one isolated incident. So I don't know if we can draw too much on that, but yeah, yeah, most of the people just, you know. Associate like I asked them this question. So if I were to show you a photo of cradle mount at the Cradle Mountain from the lake on a postcard or on a tourism TAS website or something like that, compared to a friend posting the same photo on the. Stories. Which one would you connect more to? Or which one do you like? How do you? Read them differently. Maybe this would be.

Craig

If you're posting a photo of.

Bliss

Cradle Mountain from Dove Lake, for example, because that's like the most popular photo in Tasmania. And if it was, say, on a postcard or on a tourism TAS website or, you know something. Like that to a photo. Where is photo your friend posted? And they're like, they're more likely to connect with that because that seems more accessible experience to us because that seems like if I go there, that's likely the view that I will get.

Craig

And look and. And then tourism companies spend billions of dollars on influences. Sorry.

Bliss

Yeah, but that's the interesting bit. Their relationship to the friend. Is what brings in that context and everything else. So when they're like if some influencer posts it or some tourism TAS. It's it doesn't seem that you know, it doesn't seem personal. Yeah, and that's yeah. Yeah, that's a that. Yeah.

Craig

That's a negotiated reading negotiated right?

Bliss

There you go. And that's a very good one and that's where photographers like myself think. Like, what are we doing with their lives? Because if our, you know, art form is not going to make people connect or, you know, be able to communicate that. Then what are we?

Craig

Doing well I and then I guess you could look at another extreme and talk about how movies and TV shows might influence someone to go and visit the location. Right. So that again is taking this idea of a highly in fact, it's even more produced and overproduced and faked than the tourism photo, because this will also have to conform to a spa. Sorry. Like in Rose Haven, right. Bits and pieces of of Tassie end up in the Rose Haven TV series. You can't actually go to Rose Haven, but if you like specific places you can go there and take a photo of yourself in that Rose Haven shop or something. So it does. It does translate to. Action, but I guess, yeah, I mean offhand I'd say the the difference there is that the audience is participating in it. The audience is kind of like, I'm gonna like a treasure hunt thing, right?

Bliss

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah, I think their relationship with their friend counts a lot more than any other thing. Like, it's not just an image.

Craig

If you have friends, let's assume we don't. Pathetically. Yeah. No, you're right. I mean, we all have friends or we all, I mean.

Bliss

But it's just.

Craig

But social media is driven, yeah, by at least having. Some yeah, like.

Bliss

It's the same phenomena, like if people start posting about party in the paddock or something like that and then you're like, oh, so that's where they are. And then. Five of their friendship group people post that, and then, you know, also pretty much everyone from their friendship group has gone. And that's where they're spending time. And that's what they're.

Craig

Cultural capital.

Bliss

Yeah, it's like the social proof sort of thing as well. Like, you know, if you want to associate. Yeah, yeah, could be, but.

Craig

Group group. Top five hints for how to be in the in Group, please. Sorry no.

Speaker

A minute or two.

Craig

Left. Yeah, so. People want to find out more about this research. Where can is. There any way they can go yet or? Thank you.

Bliss

That's a very good point. I think we are planning on organising a media talk at the end of the year in late November or early December.

Speaker

Not yet.

Craig

Is that the media school in Salamanca?

Bliss

In the media school every 3rd Wednesday we we do that and I think this month one of our science communicators is talking about scientists and environmental debates which will be really interesting topic. I think to listen around Lisa Gershwin, she already has a PhD in Jellyfish, and now she's doing another one in media.

Taylor

I went pH. D into jellyfish.

Craig

Yeah, yeah.

Bliss

Yeah, that was quite interesting. And yeah, so I'll probably be doing that in November and I'll hopefully hop on here again and give an update on what we find and what we've you know, when I've written my findings and discussions hopefully.

Craig

That would be wonderful. Bliss. Very much love to get you back in. And it has given me. Some thoughts around. And ensuring that I invite people on my hikes. Don't alienate them. Is there anything? You've learned from this that surprised you. Anything that?

Bliss

You. Ohh yeah, the importance of Visuality and the importance of photography and how much it's part of our everyday life. And we don't even know it. And I think it's more of an extension of experience rather than. Anything else? Like it's a very crucial way of how we engage with nature or our surroundings or our family or whatever we have. So it's very important to look at it that way and what we are documenting it and why we are documenting and yeah, yeah, hopefully in three months time I'll have more. To talk about that.

Craig

Perfect. Thank you for having me. No, it's been a pleasure. Any final words? Great, excellent. All right. Because coming up next on Edge Radio, 99.3 FM, we have K Pop unlimited. With DJ and DJ CJ.

Taylor

Yeah, there's a theme.

Craig

OK.

Taylor

The theme is round things.

Craig

It is excellent it it does sound like a children show. Hopefully we'll learn some Korean four round things. Same things. Again, if you would like to find out more about Bliss's work and research, we'll post some details on the media mothership socials. You can, as always, find show notes available on YouTube or your podcast supplier or www.media. The ship dot AU. That's. Yeah, that's it. We have an Instagram page, TikTok. We're on all the socials. Very little environmental imagery, though. A lot of AI. Confession. Great. Alright. Look, I will play a song. Yeah, keep listening to the radio 99 point. 3FF.



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