Digital Media and Visual Ethics – Call for Contributors


Those interested in the intersections between digital media, visualisation and ethics might be keen to put forward a proposal (deadline 5 April) for participation in a special event at this year’s American Anthropological Association conference in Washington, DC in early December. Running both in-person and online, the roundtable discussion event is being co-organised by a member of the Centre for Digital Heritage, along with visual anthropologists from the University of Ulster (UK) and the University of Arkansas (USA). It offers an opportunity for interested practitioners to share their dilemmas and good practices in doing active, sensitive, ethically-robust cultural research with digital and visual media.

Digital heritage specialists have an especially important role to play in this conversation, grappling as they do with multiply-constituted, temporally-complex, fragmentary and sometimes deeply tragic subject matters and interpretative approaches. Digital engagements with everything from the basic representation of uncertainty in displays about the past, to the remediation of dark heritage, and the facilitation of virtual repatriation are fraught with ethical concerns. This special event provides a collegial space in which to discuss and work through such concerns with an international, interdisciplinary range of contributors.

Please see the call for contributions below, and contact the organisers for more information.


Organizers: Sara Perry (University of York), Terry Wright (University of Ulster) & Jonathan Marion (University of Arkansas)

Where: American Anthropological Association conference, Washington, DC, 3-7 December 2014

Who: Open to anyone internationally who works with digital media in the context of visualisation, visual cultural research, film, photography, art, museology, reception studies, heritage, archaeology, anthropology, and related fields.

More than ten years ago Gross, Katz and Ruby published Image Ethics in the Digital Age, a pioneering volume whose topical concerns – privacy, authenticity, control, access and exposure, as related to the application of visual media – are arguably just as salient today, if not more so, than in 2003. The ethical dimensions of image use within digital cultures are necessarily fluid and complex, driven by practical needs, institutional frameworks, related regulatory requirements, specific research and intellectual circumstances, not to mention individual and collective moral tenets. The nature of visuality itself has also been extended via digital technologies, therein further complicating our interactions with and applications of visual media. Ethical practice here, then, tends to be necessarily situated, depending upon recursive reflection and constant questioning of one’s research processes, objectives and modes of engagement.

This session aims simultaneously to expose practitioners to, and build a resource base of, visual ethics ‘in action’ in digital contexts. It relies upon two streams:

(1) an online forum hosted on the Society for Visual Anthropology’s webpages where, prior to the AAA meetings, contributors will submit short descriptions of the ethical dimensions of their in-progress or recently-completed visual/digital research. These will provide fodder for more extensive debate in:

(2) an open, live-streamed presentation and discussion session at the AAA meetings in Washington, DC in December where various contributors to the blog will present either on-site or via Google Hangouts, and contribute in real time to reflections/direct commentary on the online forum itself.

The former will provide a stable space within which ethical debates can be added to and developed in the lead up to, during, and after the 2014 meetings. The latter offers a concentrated opportunity to channel the collective wisdom of participants (both at the meetings and online) into the negotiation and rethinking of ethical visual practice in the digital world.


For those interested in participating, please provide a brief description (max. 150 words) of the particular scenario or issue you wish to contribute to the session as soon as possible, and by 5 April 2014 at the latest. You will also need to indicate whether you plan on presenting in person or via Google Hangout at the AAA meetings in December. Decisions will be made by 10 April, and contributors will need to register for the conference via the AAA’s web-based system by 15 April. All correspondence should be sent to Sara Perry.

The session will take the form of a series of brief, 10-minute presentations by participants, culminating in an extended period of group discussion and debate. Contributors will be expected to submit content for the webpages by the beginning of September 2014.