December 5, 2004

Flickring the Zeitgeist

by Scott Rettberg · , 5:42 pm

Although for the last month or so, I’ve been buried in a variety of teaching and administrative duties, I have found the odd moment here and there to get completely addicted to Flickr, the most compelling web-based application I’ve run across in a long time. Flickr is a photo sharing service. While the services it provides subscribers (unlimited storage, generous uploading allowance, the ability to easily integrate with blogs and RSS) are not in themselves revolutionary, two of the other features of Flickr are particularly intriguing in terms of artistic practice. The first is that Flickr has built their system with the Creative Commons in mind. As you upload your photos, it is simple to select and tick off a CC: license, making photos available in what is already for other use to use in what is already the most extensive Creative Commons photosharing database. The second is that the system allows for easy metatagging, and most flickr users take advantage of it. So you can imagesurf Flickr by keywords, and not only by more obvious criteria, such as color (red), style (blackandwhite) place (Chicago), or date (1969), but also by more conceptual tags (unhappy). Any picture can be tagged with multiple phrases. The result is both an exceptionally useful public resource for anyone interested in sharing and remixing image content, and a fascinating portrait of the zeitgeist. Although the full service costs about $5 a month, the free version is also fairly generous, allowing users to upload 100 photos.