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1.0 Introduction to problems and action plans
Back in early November of 2022, very little was being written about AI in general, at least for the general public. Then some new AI-generative products were released in mid-to-late November, and a few articles or posts were written about them. By late December, the web, the news, and affected communities were gushing over this new tech and the “art” created with it.
This was the beginning of a new set of problems caused by a new disruptive technology made available to the public before the providers or consumers had a common language for discourse.
So new was this phenomenon that there were no words to define and describe “it.” Conscientious writers tried to fall back on massaging familiar words about existing tech in order to discuss this new tech, but found they must resort to tortured metaphors or a lot of qualifiers and hyphenated oxymoronic phrases. And there were those don’t know better who simply called it photography.
What aigitates me most isn’t those ignorant about the difference, but photographers who know or should know better, writing and equating generative imagery with photography, creating a sense of vetted definitional validation that is actually dangerous catachresis. They have no sense of what this lack of discrimination will have in the future.
Houston, we have a problem.
This is a new frontier. So many are writing as much as they can, as fast as they can, to gain readers, likes, and followers, creating an aura of being insta-pundits, insta-infoflow-influencers™, and instant go-to-experts in this new addition to the online info-economy.
Failure to control the lexicon and narrative will have serious ramifications, first concerning public perception. The public needs to be trained about what is and is not photography. Winning their hearts and minds is important for the battles to come once the inevitable social, political, and economic problems over AI proliferate.
New law will have to be created. Existing law, including intellectual property law, will change. It is vital we directly influence the debate and process. Legislative and judicial action, just starting now, will escalate as this technology continues to develop. There is a lot at stake here, so we need to get control of the narrative and become a major influence and stakeholder in the social, legal, and market sectors.
To that end, our first point of action is something anyone can do:
Never allow generative imagery to be equated with, or qualified alongside, the concept of photography. We must firmly correct any and all instances of this semantic and linguistic misapplication and abuse whenever and wherever we come upon it.
Here’s one actual example among many I come across in my daily reading:
AI-generated photography has come a long way in the last few years,…
Here is how we should respond:
Generative AI is not a photographic process; it does not produce photographs.
The reason for my AI backstory, for the About page, and this post is to have someplace to give as a reference when we correct misuse and to educate. This site is intended, in part, to become a resource for corrective action.
We must specifically define and preserve our craft and art, prescriptively and proscriptively. I am aigitated, not panicked, by generative AI. Photography is not going away. As more unrealities are introduced into society, the more valuable reality and those who can present it and work within it will become. Fear not…on that point, but only that point.
In the next few posts:
• I will develop a brief history of the earliest development of the science and processes and the words used in those contexts to define and describe what evolved into photography as we know it. This is important because we need to establish a historical basis of definitional characteristics and traditions of the photographic process and its products.
• Present a survey of definitions for ‘photography’ and ‘photograph’ from dictionaries, subject-specific journals, other narrative sources, the United States Code, and other government/regulatory sources. This is important because some have weight as “authoritative” precedents and could, as is, be injected directly into the body of draft legislation. They are generally awful. Others are more nuanced and developed, useful for being included in the legislative record as a resource and reference for committee debates and inclusion in references about legislative intent, which could help shape court decisions. And important for us when we develop our model definitions.
• Provide an essay on lexicography, the problem of general-purpose dictionaries, and why correcting catachresis is necessary so we don’t lose control of the definitions and then the narrative, both less likely once we …
• produce our scholarly, categorical, authoritative, go-to techno-aesthetic definitions that will meet any challenge.
Like the About page and My AI Backstory, this post is open for comments. If there are enough comments and questions raised, I will open up a chat forum. Let’s talk about it. We have work to do.
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