Questions/Answers from the presentation

Questions for all presenters:

Q: In the world of google, flickr, and wikipedia, where culture is increasingly free, how can we possible expect our patrons to figure out the complexity of copyright? Further, by teaching them it’s important to understand copyright, are we collaborating with people or organizations who want to restrict access to our collective cultural heritage?

A: I like the responses of Danuta’s colleague, and I wish to remind all of us that creative endeavors: music, photography, painting, are not free; the artist needs to be compensated if we expect for them to survive and create again. On the other hand, those images and creations truly in the public domain should be made available, and certainly one of the roles of librarians is to know the difference and to guide the user to obtain access.

A: Agree; a classroom sponsored blog is most likely protected by fair use. The only exception I can think of would be if the intention of the photograph was grossly misrepresented and the original creator took exception. I suppose in such a case a lawsuit could ensue. Finally, there is one other area of photography that is highly protected and that is celebrity photography. I have found that many celebrity images are controlled by their publicist, so a student should use celebrity images with care.

Q: How do you go about getting permissions for images? What are the typical costs of rights?

A: I visit Fallingwater as a tourist and take a snapshot with my digital camera.

Q: Can I use this image in an article published in a library journal about instruction for architecture students?

A: Again, because it’s a student use, it’s probably covered by fair use. If, however, you chose to publish your own photo in a travel magazine, for example, you might run into problems. FallingWater and many other famous, private buildings, have restrictions on the use of their images, and the owners may have rights.

Q: Does one still need to seek copyright privileges for images of works that are now under fair use? In order to use a photo of an art piece that is under fair use would the photo have to also be under fair use?

A: The photographer may wish compensation, depending upon the use, but I would guess (and remember, none of us are lawyers) that a photo of a fair use picture is probably OK in a fair use setting, like a student paper.

Q: How can visual literacy aid in information search/retrieval? Are Grokker or Aqua Browser the googles of the future?

A: The future of photography searching is definitely moving towards visual searching, a very sophisticated way of looking by the components of the picture. The trick is that the searching is based on another image: show me more images like this one. It seems that the future of image searching lies in the direction of auto-tagging; remember the URLS in the program? The demonstration of the tagging game, and the demonstration of the picture composites suggest that better metadata tagging and more automated ways of getting it will lead the way in image searching which my guess is, will be word-based for a time to come.

Q: Should visual literacy go deeper than interpreting images? Don’t we need to become more intelligent, more knowledgeable about the “grammar” of images, how the are made, how they can be manipulated, how they’re framed?

A: Yes, absolutely!

Questions for Cindy Cunningham:

Q: You said that one cannot catalog an image just once, but did you also say that cost often means that it will only be catalogued once?

A: Yes, the dilemma is that images can often only afford to be cataloged once, but things about the image change; depending upon the keywords, as in commercial cataloging, some words (trendy, retro, humor) are dated, and depending upon the event, some events gains more importance with time and may even come to have a different meaning or name over time.

A: The way around this? Social tagging, which allows users to add the words they find helpful, can have great benefits. In a commercial venture, like Corbis or Getty, free wheeling social tagging can be difficult to control and utilize. However, I believe the value of letting users help tag images will create opportunities even in the commercial realm. It may be a personalization feature, so that a user can log on and utilize his or her own words. A company cataloger can periodically review all social tagging and decide what to accept. I can see how this kind of scenario could evolve.

Q: Are there any sources you would recommend that deal with the subjectivity of conceptual description and how to take the cultural considerations into account?

A: Hmm…sorry, Corbis was using translators—mostly from the countries where we needed the language expertise. They were very aware of the differences in word usage. If such literature were to exist, I would expect to find it in discussions of translation versus “localization,” which is the term businesses use to describe creating a business unit that is culturally and linguistically correct. I have seen articles arguing for the necessity of localization and how it’s different from simple translation.

Q: How about a standard identifier and perhaps metadata scheme for still images?

A: The Library of Congress’ s Prints and Photographs Division put out a guide almost 20 years ago to standardize descriptors to describe things like point of view and photographic methods. There is also the thesaurus created by the other Getty, the cultural institution, that has visual terms.

A standard identifier is a great idea; in fact, someone in the audience of that presentation was there for just that purpose. He works for the international ISBN agency, and he’s thinking it’s time to develop such an identifier.

Q: Do your catalogers use AAT or What controlled vocabularies do your cataloguers use?

A: Corbis developed its own vocabulary over a 14-year period.

Q: You asserted that images will overtake words. What backup information do you have for that? Movies, cartoons, etc. all have/use words to contextualize the images. I just don’t believe that images will overtake words. It would be a tremendous cultural step backwards.

A: I’m not sure I said images would completely overtake words, but I do believe that the ways people are communicating are changing and becoming more and more graphical in nature. Look at the cryptic way people communicate via cell phone or even email. Shortened phrases, emoticons…it’s less and less word-based and more symbolic. Similarly we are becoming an unbelievable visual culture; yes, there are still words being used, but the power of graphics and photographs is undeniable. Ads like to create a provocative picture and put as few words as possible with it. The idea is to stimulate and provoke, intrigue, and images are the means.

Q: Crowd Sourcing: With crowd-sourcing you get a crowd of tags/descriptors. How do you avoid a situation where the word, say, “confidence” now brings up umpty-zillion images, many of which are of dubious use to the searcher?

A: Great question, and it is a problem. You can imagine that words like “sex” and “lust” and “love” are popular words for people to look up, so the risk is that many images will be tagged erroneously to get retrieved. Various on-line picture sites are dealing with this in different ways:, the newest amateur RF site to go up, reviews the tags to make sure people aren’t adding too many. I suspect that many commercial sites routinely check the most popularly searched words to make sure the results aren’t getting irrelevant. The tagging game that Google now uses rewards people for coming up with unique tags and eventually blocks users from adding common tags once it hits its limit of how many times certain tags can be used. So…there is lots of thought going into this problem.

Q: Have you looked at “segmentizing” crowd-sourcing/tagging? Do you think there is or would be consistencies of interpretation by use(eg. Advertisers, history students, etc) or are we doomed to an endless collection of word tags for every picture?

A: I love this idea, and we can imagine that if sites would support user groups, certain types of users, identified as artists, graphic designers, publishers, etc, can agree on a tagging convention. I know that such scenarios are being considered. This still means, however, that a picture might have multiple types of tagging; you just might be able to say you’re an art student and only search for tags identified as part of that community. It would be an interesting way to try and solve the bias problems, but it does mean there would still be redundancy.

Q: What about the negative implications of crowd-sourcing, esp re authority control?

A: Yep; big problem. Again, Snapvillage decided to offer a compromise; submitting photographers had to pick a controlled term off of the list, and then they could add some of their own if they wanted. In this way at least all pictures could be organized into browse lists at a high level, like business, children, motherhood, etc.

Q: Is there a thesaurus of the “creatives” keywords developed by Corbis? How do customers know the vocabulary of terms that can be used in their searches?

A: When searching Corbis you can see the keywords that were added to the image by enlarging the image and looking down at the bottom of that window. You can then check the keywords you like and launch a new search. The list of keywords is so vast, it’s not possible to browse it or even download it. However, you can generally start to figure it out once you look at the keywords being applied. Since the the thesaurus was designed to support free-text searching, you should be able to find anything, even if you don’t have the exact word or even the exact spelling.

Q: When one purchases the right to use an image from Corbis, doe they need to also get permission from the photographer?

A: No, Corbis covers all of that and represents the photographer’s rights and royalties in the sale.

Q: What does a sample catalog entry for a visual image look like or could look like?

A: It can look similar to a text record, in that it is a list of fields and includes information about the actual object and its contents, so to speak. A visual image description should include information about its dimensions, equipment used to create it, and where it’s housed; the creator; the aspects of the image, whether it’s black and white, a portrait or full body shot, point of view of the image, photographic techniques used (infared, sepia, etc.). Finally, of course the image itself, the literal aspects of i—what is in the picture–and the abstract or conceptual aspects; emotions, intentions, interpretations.

Questions for Danuta Nitecki:

Q: What are the points about what a visual and information literate person should be able to do?

A: As we mentioned, the common denominator is the ability to locate, evaluate, and recognize the context of information, regardless of format, in order to engage in critical thinking. Among the competencies of a visually literate person [that are mostly in common with information literacy skills] are: observation skills, Interpretation skills, ability to understand compositional elements [color composition, shape rhythm, etc], analytical skills used to define likes and dislikes of visual information, observation skills, ability to analyze one’s own work [separate emotion and opinion—self awareness], response to color in non-compositional context, and emotional response to pictures. I’m sure there are many other points to consider.

Q: How would you connect the objectives of media literacy movements to today’s discussion?

A: From what little I know about media literacy perspective, much of the same interest is shared in preparing viewers to critically engage with audio and visual information. I believe there is a particular concern about interpreting messages, such as are found in applications of the media in advertising and propaganda. Film makers are showing interest as well in educating viewers to interpret their craft.

Q: In addition to depiction, depicted, depictor (person who took image), shouldn’t students also consider who commissioned the image/hired the photography?

A: Under the “depicted” perspective of the rubric, we also propose that the student can discuss the image in terms of decisions made by the image maker, including their relationship to other elements in the image and the physical construction of the image, perhaps leaving room for the relation with others commissioning the work. For a more detailed discussion of the elements of the rubric, please see: . Nitecki, D. A. and Rando, W. (2004) Evolving an Assessment of the Impact on Pedagogy, Learning and Library Support of Teaching with Digital Images. In Outcomes Assessment in Higher Education Views and Perspectives, Edited by Peter Hernon and Robert E. Dugan. Englewood, CO: Libraries Unlimited, pp. 175-196.


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  1. […] Questions/Answers from the presentation […]

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