I am the community coordinator for an online network for the photojournalism industry called OPEN-i (open photojournalism education network), which has been set up by myself and a small team from my university with funding from JISC which is the UK’s learning technology funding body, the research funds were to explore the potential for online collaborative tools to enhance the engagement of universities with the outside world, business and communities we use the ning platform for the network, plus wimba web conferencing software for the live webinars which are the cornerstone of the network we launched the network in July, and now have around 550 members.
The focus is really on trying to re-imagine the profession in the age of web 2.0. Our sector is undergoing radical change and transformation form the old paid for legacy media model of magazines and newspapers that was its original core area, to a new one of more participatory media, more access to audiences etc thru the web, but much less money from editorial clients, so we are trying to figure out what new business models might work in the future to produce work that is socially relevant, ethically founded, and has impact on the audience and benefit to the subjects. So the debate is focused more on the practice of being a photojournalist than on the aesthetics, we talk more about how to produce and dissemennate the work we do than the work itself. In fact we even decided not to allow members to post their photographic work to the site unless it raised questions relevant to these questions, i.e. the site is not a ‘portfolio’ site to show your work to other people, other spaces exist for that already.
The intention for this community is to try to break some new ground, come up with some new insights or models for the future, one way we hope to do this is by bringing together different types of actors e.g. academics, practitioners, academic/practitioners, photo agencies, photo editors, photo educators, new members of the profession, students etc so that in their interaction there should be some transformational energy generated
Also it is a way to ‘test the water’ and get a sense of what is happening in our industry from a variety of perspectives