Flickr: Social Network and Creative Space

Interested in how I find photos on Flickr to use in my presentations? See my post “My Friend Flickr” (I know, I know, awful pun) over on the CIRTL Network website. Here’s an excerpt:

Select one high-quality photo that represents (concretely or metaphorically) a single idea you want to express, and fill your slide with that image. Include a word or two connected to that idea if you like, but no more than that. You don’t want the words on the screen to compete for your audience’s attention (and cognitive processing capacity) with the words coming from your mouth. Since our brains process verbal and visual inputs in parallel, an image doesn’t compete and, in fact, can complement your words by helping your audience understand and remember your point.

What I didn’t mention in that post is that I’m not only a consumer of Flickr photos, I’m a contributor. I’ve shared almost a thousand photos on Flickr (which is owned by Yahoo) since I joined in June 2010. Initially, I just posted a few vacation photos now and then, but as I started using photos more regularly in my presentations (and blog posts), I became interested in giving back to the Flickr community. I also found that I really liked taking photos and learning to take photos.

In February 2011 I started participating in something called the Daily Shoot, in which amateur photographers were encouraged to complete a photography assignment sent out via Twitter each morning. Photos uploaded to Flickr and tagged appropriately were aggregated on the Daily Shoot website, where I had a lot of fun seeing how others interpreted each day’s assignment. I’m a much more creative photographer because of my participation in the Daily Shoot. Thanks, Duncan Davidson! (Although the Daily Shoot is no more, you can still see my contributions.)

The Daily Shoot also introduced me to the community side of Flickr. I knew it as a photo sharing site, but I hadn’t realized that it was a fully functioning social network, too. You can follow another Flickr user by making them a “contact.” You can easily see the photos that your contacts have recently shared on Flickr. You can favorite a photo or leave a comment on it. And you can join one or more of the thousands of groups on Flickr, like this one devoted to orange and blue photos, or this one featuring ghost signs, or this one reserved for photos taken using redscale film, or the Birdsill Holly Society, named after the inventor of the fire hydrant. (You can perhaps guess what kind of photos that group features.)

What’s more, I’ve found Flickr users to be, on the whole, friendly, respectful, and generous. Not all are, of course, but there are plenty of amateur and professional photographers on the site who are genuinely interested in improving their craft and complimenting each other on a great shot.

Flickr’s official blog is a very useful introduction to the site. Their bloggers do a great job of showcasing interesting photographers and themes on Flickr, as well as Flickr-related events, such as the meet-ups and photography walks that Flickr users organize around the world. I find a few new photographers to follow every week through Flickr blog posts. I also discover new Flickr contacts through John’s Background Switcher, which I use to serve up a new Flickr landscape photo to my computer desktop every ten minutes. More recently, I’ve found the Digital Photography School, which features weekly photography assignments not unlike the old Daily Shoot, to be a fun way to find new Flickr users to follow.

There’s more I could write about Flickr, such as my collection of photos of learning spaces or Vanderbilt’s 365 project, which accepts submissions from the VU community, or the ease with which I use Flickr’s RSS feeds to pipe photos to the footer of this blog and to my Facebook page. But I’ll stop here! In short, I’m a big fan of Flickr as a professional tool and personal creative space, and I hope Yahoo’s new CEO helps Flickr continue to flourish.

Image: “It’s All Done with Mirrors,” me, Flickr (CC)

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