Photos, Photos Everywhere

Of of the hallmark changes of the mobile revolution is making cameras ubiquitous. While by no means is smartphone ownership universal, it is pretty darn close. Most people now have the ability to take a photo and thumb-type a blog post about it (like I’m doing now #PostedFromMyAndroid) in a matter of minutes. This presents incredible opportunities for researchers. Not only will future historians potentially have access to more material than ever before, but the researcher’s task in the present is made much easier.

Digitizing a document from an archive by snapping a photo is now commonplace. So much so that specialized photo organizng programs for academics now exist, such as Tropy. Tropy keeps pictures of archival resources collected by project, allows the user to create meaningful metadata, and critically, requires resources to have their reproduction rights noted so an absent-minded scholar doesn’t accidentally publish something contrary to copywrite. Sadly, no android version exists (yet), so it still requires mobile photos to be transferred to a computer.

But what of the photos themselves? In archives, researchers often have the privilege of interacting directly with the document, but if something is on public display it is almost assuredly behind glass. I have personally spent the better part of hours trying to deal with glass glare in my pictures and it is about one if my least favorite things to do. Fortunately, technology comes again to the rescue. Google makes a free photo-scanning app that uses composite images to digitally remove glass glare. Take these for example:

Taken with my bob-standard phone camera.
Taken with Google Photo Scan.

The difference is (literally) clear.

Tech like this represents some of the newest tools for researchers, made all the more valuable to us by deploying devices most of us already have.

One Reply to “Photos, Photos Everywhere”

  1. Hello Neil! Great Job on the blog post. I envy you, that you were able to upload this post via your Android phone. I tried to do that myself, but couldn’t quite figure out how (for a person who has grown up in this technological era, I have as much knowledge of it as my dad or grandpa does). I noticed in your regular camera photo we can see a shadow-cast figure of you taking it (a reflection) which I found amusing because this happened to me to when I took my photo. The difference between regular camera and apps like Tropy is insanely clear. It’s crazy how much human beings are constantly transforming technology, even relatively new types. I mean, think about how many times one has to update their own phones, it’s ridiculous but when you find the app running smoother you gain appreciation for it. I am glad you brought up the universality of smartphones, because as it was discussed, they are “mainly owned among the poor groups of people” (Tebeau, “Oral History and place in the Digital Era,” 2013). While mobile phones are basically widespread, it’s also good to keep in mind that different classes and groups of people have their own access to different types of phones and that some don’t have access at all. One thing I would have to say about your post, is perhaps you could have used one of the museums we looked at this week to view the importance of tech, but other then that you post is fantastic and very straightforward.

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