Commentary Dr. Larry Burriss: Photos



     There are cultures throughout the world where individuals do not like to have their picture taken.  Some of the people fear an invasion of privacy, others fear the image somehow steals part of their personality or soul.  Some people believe that if you have a photograph you have a part of that person you can now use for harm.
     Often these people, groups and tribes are seen as primitive or unsophisticated.  After all, it’s only a photograph.  What could be the harm?
     Well, apparently, many people in our sophisticated and cultured world are sounding a similar alarm about photographs, especially ones that end up on that ultimate symbol of sophistication and culture, that technological marvel, the Internet.

   What is particularly interesting is that the words may be different, but the concept is the same:  having a photograph of someone gives you at least a small level of control over them. The latest danger, we’re told, is software that can manipulate photographs and videos to such an extent the changes are almost undetectable except with sophisticated software working at the pixel level.
     Those photographs, of course, don’t really exist, except as some mysterious combinations of pulses somewhere in what used to be known as “the ether,” but we call “the cloud.”
     But the danger has gotten to the point where various businesses and organizations, and super-sophisticated government entities such as the National Security Agency and the Defense Intelligence Agency are taking steps to protect the next election cycle against those would use photographs to subvert American democracy.
     You know, we used to laugh at those primitive people who thought there was something mysterious and magical about photographs.  So, are our ideas of cloud storage very much different from notions of heavenly realms and supernatural control?  Maybe those so-called primitive people have something to teach us after all.
     I’m Larry Burriss