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Having equal access to something cannot necessarily be construed as democratic

April 21, 2007

By Charlie Devereux, liveblogging from The Democratic Image symposium

Pedro Meyer’s keynote talk was a tour through the development of technology and how this has affected his work and photography around the world.

Here are some facts he threw out:

– The omnipresence of digital means that film costs nothing nowadays. Today we should instead be looking at how much it costs to store the data. The cost and capacity of a hard drive is a better measure of how much photography costs today.

– The price of digital cameras is falling by 30% year-on-year

– The Mexican photagrapher Raul Ortega published a book with funding from the Chiapas government. He printed 4000 copies, 2000 of which remained unsold 4 years later. He then published it as a downloadable pdf on Meyer’s zonezero. 24,000 were downloaded within 30 days.

So, the argument goes, advances in technology (low cost + increased distribution) = more democratic.

Yes, but…

Having equal access to something cannot necessarily be construed as democratic – look at Coca Cola.

The debate continues with a video link up with Bill Thompson after the coffee break.

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One comment

  1. The symposium suggested that new, cheap and accessible technologies was a good thing. We also saw scenes of mexicans unable to access water.

    However, maybe it is worth remembering that any decrease in the cost of our photographic technologies has been mainly carried by the poorest in the world. Our desire for cheap cameras and computers means that cheap labour is essential and, for example, in Mexico cheap computers are put together for export to the rich west. This in turn means that Mexican PC factory workers are unable to buy the goods they require for a decent standard of living – apart from the fact that basic labour rights are ignored.

    I am left with a question: where is the democracy when the technologies we use can be detrimental to those in the factories of Mexico?



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