Internet Stalking and Photos

In order to build a slideshow to use for the Berkman Center gala, I have been searching (mainly on Flickr) for pictures of our fellows and trying to dig up archives for past photos. The task itself is very manual and time-consuming, but during the process, I felt like a stalker, because here I was looking for their photos and they don’t even know it. It doesn’t matter that I’m doing it for professional purposes, it still seems wrong. 

Never in my six years of professional reporting when I went through files and files of data and pages and pages of websites in search of information on a specific person made me think I was stalking them. But for some reason, photos give you a different feeling, because you are looking at the person’s face and it feels so personal when it is actually not. For instance, I was looking up Doc Searls and up came a barrage of photos- some in a professional context, but some not- some of Doc making silly faces or engaged in some sort of private activity. After combing through a hundred photos of Ethan Zuckerman, I felt like I really knew this person, when in fact, we’ve only exchanged a brief hello. I guess they aren’t so paranoid about their photos on the web (there are so many of them and they are, after all, public figures).

It made me think how easy stalking has become because of the Internet and how scary that is. Although many photo albums have privacy features, you never know when someone will take your photo and put it up on the web. Those photos can create a pretense of being personal and have disturbing consequences. I remember when I used to have my reporter’s blog (which was an “professional” blog hosted by work) there would be people commenting on my picture and then asking me out and posting rude comments when I would not respond. Now that I am no longer a “public figure,” blogging has become a very casual thing (I’m no longer looking over my shoulder all the time and making sure I’m not writing anything personal) but I’m still worried about my information (particularly photos) drifting around the web.

I guess I am relieved in some sense that I am not a beauty; the reason I don’t like people knowing my face is that I don’t want them to associate my face with my writing. I think putting a face behind writing raises level of subjectivity and creates unnecessary biases.

I am blogging more on this site these days because my primary blog is having server problems. I try to separate my academic thoughts from my personal ones, but these days, things are just a mess and my brain is not functioning properly.


One response to “Internet Stalking and Photos

  1. The funny thing is that I’m a public figure only in a very confined sense — but among folk who do shoot a lot of pictures and put them up on the Web.

    Still, I am anonymous and invisible in the rest of the world, which is wonderful.

    By the way, I have piles of Berkman pix going back about 3 years, many of them offline. Been meaning to put some up. Maybe I’ll do that now. Might be too late for your project, but it would be helpful.



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