Originally published on Digital Curation class blog, 9/8/09.
Recently I have been intrigued by sites such as http://imgfave.com that aggregate photos/images through socialbookmarking and personal uploading. Imgfave allows the user to ‘favorite’ what image appeals to them, and then displays the collections of others who have fave’ed that particular image.
One may add those images to particular ‘collections’, and one may become a ‘fan’ of (or you may ‘follow’) other users. There are different “feeds”: “Popular” (most fave’ed), “Everyone,” “Friends,” and “My Profile” that one may browse and work from. One also may link images or one’s profile to Facebook.
The only major drawback with the site is that it lacks metadata. That is, until I discovered its rival: http://vi.sualize.us/.
Visualize uses metadata heirarchies – It has a section of Popular tags with general categories such as: photography, illustration, design, nature, art. Each contain sub-categories of qualities from: “vintage” and “humor” to elements or examples such as “typography” or “landscape.”
There is also a section “Most used tags” to guide one. These are listed in alphabetical order, with most used ones in bolder, larger font. You can view (and RSS subscribe to) “popular pictures feed” and “recent pictures feed.”
Each image displays a file name or title, when it was added, how often it’s been “liked,” comments on it, and its tags. And it appears that not only the ‘creator’ or person who uploaded the image, but everyone can tag the image.
This blog article gives a list of 10 social bookmarking visual sites: including also Picocool, We love typography, and others.
At a glance – the browsability seems more enjoyable and sublime with imgfave.com than with vi.sualize.us/. I am not sure if this is because the thumbnail images are smaller with vi.sualize.us/ or because the random, metadata-lacking feed in imgfave makes the experience more prone to serendipity and thus feel more direct and personal than one mediated by a metadata schema.
I think in regards to the size of the image, what imgfave does best is feature larger images that one needs to scroll down to view. So in scrolling down, one is discovering the images, experiencing them each individually. In vi.sualize.us/, on the other hand, one is presented with rows of smaller images, displayed three across, and typically 2 1/2 rows will fill one’s screen. This in combination with all of the text lends itself to a visually overwhelming experience, whereas imgfave feels far more like a poetic and artistic discovery. In imgfave one does not know what one is “looking for” but favorites those visual items when one sees them. Yet, the only real drawback is then, once having found that image (or others like it), the lack of metadata makes it difficult to further seek out these kinds of pictures.
Another feature in imgfave that I enjoy is its bookmarklet widget: Similar to the del.icio.us widget in the toolbar, when one sees an image online one clicks the <3imgfave text in the toolbar and all the images on that page become surrounded with a red border with a button in the center prompting one to ‘add to imgfave.”
An interesting argument in this comparative discussion might be: “What about Flickr?” Why was Flickr not mentioned as a “visual social bookmarking site?” Flickr has marvelous social networking features, from the ability to add contacts and create communities and image pools. It also has a tagging dimension (although one far less standardized than vi.sualize.us’s fine art/design metadata schema (although vi.sualize.us’s IS customizable). There is a component in Flickr whereby one can ‘favorite’ other people’s images. However, when one clicks on one of the images that one has favorited, one does not see recommendations of images from others who have favorited that same image. This is one of the things that intrigues me – following this trail. Does it yield reliable “data?” Sometimes, there is still a signal to noise ratio – but it provides a slightly more relevant result than searching randomly or by ranking.
The most important question however – “Is all this Digital Curation?” This is something I am still investigating. I believe personally that digital curation in these examples would necessitate a combination of the associative discovery factor in imgfave with the aesthetic metadata elements of vi.sualize.us, along with the social networking/collaborative potential in Flickr – and ultimately, the ability in using these features to observe and discover emergent visual trends and patterns, and to not only come up with innovative stylistic metadata to describe these things, but to have that information emerge via tag ranking as an influence to how we communicate about contemporary visual culture as a whole.