Stephen Scardamalia
New Media: In Theory and Practice
Andy Deck
October 25, 1996

With the recent developments/advances in computer technology and video, images and graphics have become sharper and clearer, and documents are more easily and accurately reproduced. This includes things like photographs. Pictures can be scanned, and with quality software and printing equipment, can be edited, printed, and distributed.

With these new, developed technologies, it is possible to 'touch up' photographs, changing shadows, and other small details. The original photograph no longer has to be perfect, because it can be edited before distribution. This presents fantastic possibilities for media, but also presents fantastic problems. The photograph has been a staple of truth, of record. For example, if someone had a photograph of OJ committing the two murders, he'd most likely be in jail at the moment. On the other hand, a picture of him sitting in a store or restaurant, under a clock that also displays the date, taken during the murders, could just about guarantee his freedom.

But with the developments in video/computer technology, the photograph will soon become obsolete as means of record. A picture could be taken of someone committing a crime, then edited in a lab (for insanely huge amounts of money) to replace the face, clothes, shoes, etc..., of the perpetrator, framing an innocent person. Or, in the other case, clocks and other details could be edited to make the photo appear to be an alibi, when it could have been taken years prior. (Facial features, hair color, and other characteristics could be altered to give an older or younger look.)

Even video will no longer be reliable. When a videotape is edited, video experts can usually find indications of such actions. But the new technologies will enable people to create seamless edits, shattering the validity of video as a form of record.

Take a moment to think about this. The implications are mind boggling! Forget about the Internet, and other computer related changes. This video/graphic technology alone will bring about an incredible revolution in the societies of the world. Even the extremely underdeveloped nations will be changed. It requires only money and an envelope to send a photo somewhere that it can be altered. Anything which bases it's validity on images (or sound for that matter - similar technologies exist and are being developed that will allow seamless, undetectable editing of audio) will be turned upside down!

And for all the drastic changes that occur, the technology will also be put to commercial, novelty use. You can have a picture of yourself with a president (alive or dead), a celebrity, a monument without ever having visited it! Or you could have your voice mixed into your favorite band's songs. You could make a huge production just for a 30 second message on your answering machine (or voice mail system, as the case may be.) The possibilities are endless! And so is the market. (And we think some of the commercials we see now are nifty!)

So, while these changes may be drastic, society needs to accept them, and deal with them, or get swept away and bogged down in them. We will have to develop new medium or methods for validation. Or maybe the evolution of the technology will see equipment that can in some way test the authenticity of an image or sound bit. It all remains to be seen.