The Department of Communication at the University of Massachusetts Amherst will host a talk by Nathalie Casemajor, from UQAM Outaouais on February 23rd, 2016
Digital Image Forensics: Ethical Challenges in Social Movement Studies
February 23, Noon-1:30pm, Integrative Learning Center 3rd floor HUB
Abstract: When we publish and share images online, we are not always aware of the hidden data that we might send along with those pictures. Embedded metadata is a set of descriptive, technical and administrative information that travels unknowingly within digital files. They document the lifecycle of pictures, providing clues on the context of creation, use and circulation of images. An underlying component in the technical infrastructure of digital visuality, they contribute to shape “the semiotic and cultural system that structures the way visual artifacts are produced, interpreted and disseminated” (Mirzoeff at al., 2016). The recent literature in the field of media studies highlighted the part metadata plays in domains of activity such as the digital economy and informational infrastructures. Based on a case study of a series of photographs representing the carré rouge (red square), a visual form that became the symbol of the 2012 student upheaval in Québec, this paper analyses the specificities of metadata embedded in (photographic) images and examines their conditions of circulation on digital networks. How can embedded metadata be used to analyze the circulation of digital images on the Web? What are the limits and methodological challenges of this type of data? And what are the ethical implications of using forensic techniques to analyze invisible data in the graphic documentation of social movements? The aim of this paper is to contribute to the field of metadata studies by highlighting the specificities of embedded metadata as an object od inquiry, by exploring its relationship to the technical, social and economic conditions of digital images circulating online, and by providing an ethical consideration of its use in research projects.
BIO: Nathalie Casemajor is an assistant professor in communication studies in the department of social sciences at the University of Québec in Outaouais (Canada). She holds a PhD in communication from Université du Québec à Montréal and a doctorate in information and communication sciences from Université Lille 3 (2009). She was postdoctoral fellow at McGill University (department of art history and communications studies) and at the national institute of scientific Research (INRS – Montreal, Urbanization, culture and society research centre) as well as a visiting scholar at the New York University (department of media, culture and communication). Her work focuses on digital culture, archives and collective memory. She is a member of the Wikimedia Canada Board.