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Creation or Critique

Franklin20's picture

In her article, How We Think Katherine Hayles urges readers to shift from critique to creation. That is to say, Hayles urges readers to stop fidgeting with information that is currently out in the world and start creating new ways to contextualize and visualize that media. Specifically, Hayles expresses two new ways of creation: assimilation and distinction. According to Hayles, Assimilation is the process in which one extends print media into the digital realm. For example, translating a printed book, Frankenstein for instance, into an online text or possibly even recreating a digital version of the Frankenstein monster would be a creative assimilation. Distinction, on the other hand, values creation and advancement in the digital realm, neglecting the efforts made by print media. In bringing up the pedagogical advantages of Assimilation and Distinction, Hayles ultimately urges her readers to resist the urge to merely critique and stresses the importance of creation.

However, the medium of photography proves that the distinction between creation and critique is not so easily identified. Photography is a critical art form because in the “creation” of the image, one is not technically creating something anew. There is a sense, that when one takes a photograph, one copies rather than creates. The photographer does not consume information and then use that information to develop his or her own new image. This is different from painters, illustrators, etc who see a subject and then consume the information that the subject conveys to create ones own artwork. Overall, there is a sense of formative work and labor involved in creation that is not implied in critique.

In demonstrating the limits of the creation and critique binary, I have taken a series of photos trying to depict the theme of “My Dorm Room.” For the purposes of this web event, I have restricted myself to merely photographing my room from various angles throughout the week. I refused to allow myself to digitally alter any of the photographs digitally.


Each image has conveys a different type of information. The first image, the floorplan of my dorm, really emphasizes the community living aspect of the dorm room and in its drawn, eagles eye view offers a more impersonal tone. This is in contrast to the last picture of my dorm room taken from the edge of my bed which shows the pictures on my wall and the party lights above my bed.  Here, the angle, the positioning of the camera from on the bed, and the warm yellow light all work together to convey a more homely feel. This contrasts the picture of my messy desk and my bookshelf, taken later on in the week which presents dorm as not a home but rather a work space.

            Technically speaking, I have created a new type of information in altering my view. Each image presents a new information that was not conveyed in the image before it. However, I have not physically changed the subject of “my dorm room” (I recognize that the objects in my room may have changed but the notion for the dorm as a room for student living has not changed). In emphasizing or de-emphasizing the set of potential information carried in these images, these photographs also partake in a level of critique. This extends even to textual analysis. Writing a critique of a novel, for instance, that conveys new information that may not be obvious in one reading is potentially more creative, than digitally recreating an environment present in the novel.

            Thus, photography, even on the manual level, is able to demonstrate that Katherine Hayles binaries between creation and critique are inadequate.








Anne Dalke's picture

Visually speaking


first of all: a HIGH FIVE for finally getting up your nice images!

what tickles me, secondly, about this project of course is that you are using it to explore some of the visual dimensions of the web; I like it very much that you "stepped off" from your in-class performance of the celebrity photographer Mike Ruiz to actually engage in the critical-creative act of making photographs, rather than simply "writing about" his life. You don't reference his work here @ all though--what have you learned about his practice, from engaging in your own?

The "punch line" of this photo-essay actually seems to dramatically narrow its possibilities. You conclude by saying that your work demonstrates "that Katherine Hayles binaries between creation and critique are inadequate." But I'm a little fuzzy about the adequacy of what you put in their place. At first you say that "in the 'creation' of the [photographic] image, one is not technically creating something anew"; but then later you claim that "technically speaking, [you] have created a new type of information in altering my view."

So I guess I need to know more: what do you mean by "technically"? What is creation? What is critique?--in this newly altered, less binary construction of the photographed world?