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4. Not from Stone

At first I just wanted to find out what it feels like to write on analog photographs. Not about/on. Actually on. On the prints themselves. For some of us that's routine. Say you're the 1994 Winter Olympics Gold Medal Winner in the Men's Normal Hill Ski Jump. You've probably been signing autograph cards with your photo on it for a while now. But we don't all enjoy that privilege. And it's a bit different, anyway, to actually take a pen to photographs of other human beings. more

Published: 21.03.2018
3. Waiting for the Train (and for the Holocaust Memorial Repair Crew)

The damaged Holocaust memorial rises from the mud. This is Paderborn, Germany. Kasseler Tor, to be precise, a commuter train station minutes from downtown. I get off here on my way to work. There's a convent to the left and a halfway house to the right. The university's a brief walk up the hill. Paderborn is about the size of Bridgeport, Connecticut, or Bern, Switzerland, or Blackpool, England. But when you're waiting for an outbound train at Kasseler Tor (off-peak: one per hour; peak: two), the place appears desolate. If you choose to ignore the memorial. more

Published: 06.03.2018
2. The Creased Portrait of a Lady

Someone smiled decades ago and now she stops you in your tracks. Early in 1953 Sarah Jackson posed for a studio photographer in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. She was 16 years old, a high school senior with six siblings. On Mississippi Street her family ran “Jackson Groceries.” Because Sarah worked so hard in the store, her father called her “Jim.” She was engaged to be married to a man named Wilbert Olinde. more

Published: 19.02.2018
1. Ripping Up Mountains

A kerosene monster is tearing up the skies. I’m on Austrian Airlines flight 232 from TXL to VIE and I see this town called Gmunden on Lake Traunsee, Salzkammergut, Austria. On Traunsee’s clear blue waters a white ferry floats, decorated with multicolored flags. I see a church on the far shore and those amazing mountains. A middle-aged man of privilege in seat 17 C, I am about to do enormous damage to beautiful Gmunden and gorgeous Traunsee.  more

Published: 05.02.2018

Photographs may touch us. More often, though, we touch them. And when we do, we damage them. Our fingers leave creases and stains on surfaces. Exposing pictures to the elements, we ruin their colors. Some of us add moustaches to portraits, some vampire teeth. Others carry likenesses in their wallets: damaging acts of love. Then again, the more traces of use we see on photographs, the more intense they seem. Each flaw we register as an addition to the stories told by the analog image itself. Yes, our toxic obsession with authenticity should also lead us to critique the crease craze. As this blog series by Christoph Ribbat proclaims, however, it is more important to praise the grandeur of the damaged photograph.

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4. Robots, Race, and Gender

Last week, I attended a meeting organized by Gendered Innovations at Stanford University in Northern California. While there, I was thinking about the algorithmically-driven software that will be embedded in anthropomorphized computers – or robots – that will be entering the market soon. In this post, I want to offer a provocation, and suggest that we continue to gather interdisciplinary scholars to engage in research that asks questions about the re-inscribing of gender in both the software and hardware.  more

Published: 30.01.2018
3. The Problems of Platform Protections

Yesterday, I celebrated the national Martin Luther King Jr. holiday in the United States, on the heels of the President of the United States doubling down on his racist agenda with abhorrent comments against people of color, immigrants, and those who don’t reflect his vision of America, an America where nazis and white supremacists are legitimated through more than just his re-tweets on Twitter. When we discuss Dr. King’s legacy, we spend considerable time talking about Dr. King’s commitments to ending poverty and economic oppression, which is fundamentally tied to racial and gender oppression.  more

Published: 16.01.2018
2. The Problems of Profiting from Internet Pollution

At the end of 2017, I attended and participated in an international conference on internet content moderation, All Things in Moderation, at the University of California, Los Angeles, organized by my long-time research collaborator, Dr. Sarah T. Roberts, an authority on commercial content moderation. This conference was the first of its kind, bringing in stakeholders for public conversations that reflected the concerns of industry, activists, content moderation workers, journalists, academics, and policy makers. In today’s blog post, I want to talk about the ethical dimensions of regulating the internet and digital media platforms, whether by content moderation, algorithms and automated decision-making systems, or by public policy. more

Published: 08.01.2018
1. Engineering Beyond Bias: It’s Time To Call the Experts

This month, data scientist Cathy O’Neil caused a twitter storm when she alleged that academics are “asleep at the wheel” when it comes to critiquing artificial intelligence and algorithms and their impact in society. Within 24 hours, academics from the United States and Europe began to weigh in with evidence to the contrary, citing studies, conferences, scholars, and academic departments that have given more than three decades to the study of such. more

Published: 06.12.2017

Till the end of January, Safiya U. Noble explores the intersectional ways race and gender are embedded in digital infrastructures. Noble suggests that logics and structures of race are a matter of network and platform design, which encode values that cannot be divorced from the digital. To open, she investigates the erosion of humanities and social science courses from the education of engineers, and suggests that the erasure of sociality impacts conceptions of technology’s promise. Later in the series, she explores other dimensions of the social stack and how race and gender are embedded in contemporary conceptions of the digital.

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