The chapter Visual networks: Learning and photosharing by Guy Merchant (2010) is one of those articles where you have a quiet but significant thought pop into your head like, Oh, so that’s what I’ve been doing. Up to this point, you didn’t have words to describe it, you just participated blissfully. In this case I would call it a New Social Paradigm, or something lofty like that. The part that made me wake up is when Merchant said:
“Flikr is designed so that sophisticated social networking tools—such as privacy controls, comment displays, photo sequencing, and category labels—are placed at the disposal of the individual.” (2010, p. 83)
It took five pages, by the way, for me to arrive at this epiphany. With Web 2.0, we’ve developed new social habits through voluntary levels of participation. How we choose to interact, share, and invest in a network demonstrates the level of communication we wish to have with our circles of friends, family, professionals, or like-minded enthusiasts. And even more, Flikr and other social/user generated content systems are made that way by design. And we like it that way—choosing our levels of connection.
Merchant (2010) draws an interesting visual when he describes the contributions to the Flikr spaces as making up a “fabric” (as cited in Merchant, 2010, p. 84), demonstrating that these systems aren’t hierarchical in any way, but more akin to something intertwined. Our images, comments, technical expertise and our shared information become the many strands that weave a larger community. I especially like how he described the way image sharing was just one part of the community and that comments, notes, and mail exchanged between members is “the lifeblood of the social network” (2010, p. 89). These connections are further enriched by bonding within smaller groups, that have, in turn, resulted in group events or “meets” in the real world for social interaction. Very exciting!
The last section of the chapter focuses on using Flikr in an educational context. I was immediately drawn to the group annotating capabilities described with using Voicethread, but also the visual literacy aspect through syntactical and semantic elements put forth by Bamford (as cited in Merchant, 2010, p. 98). This ties into my studies in web literacy for ELA and also the library space for teaching media strategies on how to critically view images in context.
Normally I use Flikr for getting embed codes for other media projects, but I see now that I greatly underutilize this Web 2.0 learning tool. It has so much more potential for not only being an enriching artistic space, but a great asset in the classroom. Two things that attracted me to Flikr is the ability for customization of pages, making areas unique and artistically expressive, as well as the incorporation into other online spaces. Suffice it to say, this will be a resource that I refer back to for inspiration in the future.