July 2008 Archives

A new class of software could solve some of the confidentiality concerns that ethnographers encounter when taking photos of participants -- an issue that I recently pondered.

2008-07-30 face swap.jpg

I conducted a brief stint of fieldwork in Tokyo over the summer and wanted to take photos of my participants using their keitai (cell phones) and/or pasocon (personal computers). One of the issues I "faced," however, was maintaining their confidentiality while taking pictures that were also aesthetically pleasing. This meant that I gravitated towards taking pictures of them while wearing a mask (in a subtle nod to Mishima's Confessions of a Mask) instead of blurring their faces out.

However, there is an interesting and exciting piece of software that can swap out the faces that appear in photographs. The impetus behind the software is to protect the privacy of individuals that are captured in public photographs, such as those that appear on Google Street View.

Unfortunately, it doesn't exist commercially, yet, but it does present an interesting solution to a problem as such.

(Via Boing Boing.)

Boing Boing TV has expanded their offerings into a "world" series. Here is a piece of what Xeni has to say about it:

"On behalf of all my Boing Boing and Boing Boing tv colleagues, I'm excited and proud to announce the debut of a new series within our daily video program: BBtv World. This ongoing series will feature first-person glimpses of life around the world, told through the lenses and voices of Boing Boing editors, guest collaborators -- and through the people in these places, their own stories, their own way. When we can, we want to place the camera directly in the hands -- literally -- of the people whose lives, cultures, and lands we're visiting."

This short snippet alone is interesting to me because it touches on the desire to put the camera in the hands of others, an issue that Karen has addressed before.

It is also interesting to think about the way these mainstream public productions of knowledge play into ethnographic creation of any sort. In other words, what does an ethnography mean -- both in terms of content and genre -- to an audience that has access to these other forms of knowledge that intersect with the goals of ethnography?

I'm very pleased to welcome a new guest blogger on Photoethnography.com, Jason C Romero. Many of you have already seen his comments on this blog, or read material that he sent my way. I'm very happy that he agreed to become a guest author and I personally look forward to seeing his posts!

JR gave me a heads up that my FeedBurner subscription broke when I upgraded to MT4.1. It looks like one of the softlinks went stale and FB wasn't getting new data. I've relinked it so it should work now.....

An undergraduate student noted that there weren't many doctoral or masters programs in visual anthropology. The Society for Visual Anthropology has a list that is relatively kept up to date:

  • http://www.societyforvisualanthropology.org/programs.html (link broken)


Update 2009.10: It looks like the SVA didn't archive this page before moving their website to a new system. I used the Wayback Machine to grab the 2008 version of the page and include here (after the jump) as a reference. I'll remove it if the SVA wants me to:

I've written about psychiatric service animals before, but this is a new twist.

The New York Times Magazine from last week has a wonderful article about the growing trend of psychiatric medicine for dogs, cats, and other pets. I'd heard of puppy prozac, but there's also meds for doggy OCD and kitty obsesity.

Soon, our psychiatric service animals will need their own psychiatric service attendants!

One of my blog readers recently posed a question by e-mail:

I'm a Mac user with a disability who is debating whether to purchase the MacSpeech VRS. Though I know that Dragon Naturallyspeaking is still superior, I'd much prefer to use software supported on a Mac OS rather than have to switch to Windows. Like Karen I'm somebody who works with Japanese. I understand that MacSpeech does not yet suppose foreign text, particularly non-Roman alphabets. What I'd like to know is your experience writing Japanese names and terms in romanization. I also hear that MacSpeech does not yet have correct as you go or spelling functions. I should imagine this would be a big problem if a lot of the text you are dictating has foreign words in it. I hear that you can upload sample documents for it to analyze, but how useful or efficient is that?


I have to say that I'm disappointed with MacSpeech Dictate. After my initial installation problems (chronicled here), I tried using Dictate in my daily work.

It was fine for composing regular e-mail messages or blog entries such as this one that contained no technical language. However, it was useless for writing any scholarly material as I use Japanese words in my work. Without even the ability to spell out words (N-I-H-O-N-G-O), I'm stuck.

Trying to train it to learn words is an effort in futility, in my experience. There's no way to really train it specifically on your pronunciation so if it doesn't guess Hanako right on the first go, there's nothing you can do it to tell it that Hanako is Hanako.

There haven't been any updates recently and I've sort of lost hope on MacSpeech as a company. I think I'm going to just resort to running Dragon in Windows XP under VMWares Fusion.

MIT has released a new streaming series on Doing Anthropology at: http://techtv.mit.edu/file/663/

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This page is an archive of entries from July 2008 listed from newest to oldest.

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