Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Flickr as a conversation

As numerous people have observed, Flickr (and other publish & subscribe photo services) can be thought of a subtle communication channel, not just content. Indeed, the fact that Nokia's core competence of connecting people is now carried out by just about anybody with an IP connection, a dollop of good looking code and an ounce of entrepreneurial flair is a well recognized challenge in the corridors of Espoo and minds of our execs (, shouldn't that be 'opportunity'? - Ed) .
Pictures are indeed worth thousands of words, but also (enter quantum theory for the first time on this blog) each interpretation is different depending on the observer. The same picture can have multiple meanings depending on the personal communication history with individual viewers. So if someone posts a pic of themselves with someone of the opposite sex looking like they're having fun on holiday, it could be an innocent postcard to colleagues, a look-at-me message to their friends, a screw-you to an ex and / or a don't disturb me am on holiday to any casual ('Flickr friends') who might be thinking of suggesting a beer down the pub. Many layers. Arguably written or spoken words can have multiple meanings (and I say this as an oft-misunderstood Brit), but the possibilities for nuance with rich media seem greater.
One the opposite extreme, I just saw this message below. Its novelty and abuptness stopped me in my tracks - like someone shouting in a library. Normally I would expect to see direct communication morph into indirect: kids sending empty texts, abstract images or dialling numbers then hanging up; hacking traditional channels. Here we are seeing direct communication enter by the back door - I wonder if there are other indirect communication channels that have become direct ones? Anyway, hack away Flickr users, and show us even more ways to communicate!

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