Moblogs : The Map of Time PDF
Written by Julian Gallo   



“Movies are life without the boring parts”

Alfred Hitchcock


Moblogs (Mobile + Weblogs) demand to be published in chronological order, thus making photographs a symbolic set that is much more important and congruent than if the same pictures were to be put in a photo album, with a previous arbitrary selection.


In experimenting with the constant publishing of family pictures in a moblog –something only possible through cell-phones with a camera- I discovered that this apparently innocuous organization feature – a picture follows another, and the latest is the first that is seen published- was giving away a secret to me.


After 10 months of sending pictures every day to Textamerica (a rate of approximately 6.5 photos per day) I realized that I am making neither an album nor a web log, not even a moblog; I am making a map.





Historically, family photos have been kept in albums (including all the places where images could be stored, such as notebooks, folders, organizers, blank sheets of paper) for family remembrance or posterity.


The photographic rhythm is marked by meaningful events: Marriages, births, birthdays, trips, homecomings, graduations, visits from relatives… These situations offer opportunities for capturing relevant moments that later will be milestones in the family’s history.


These images will end up grouped in the family ‘s photo album.


This picture of two unknown children is published in the site “Look at me” This site receives anonymous photos found on the streets or flea markets, they are nobody’s pictures. Picture sent by Sam Miller


The opportunity to organize photographs within albums -an activity that in most cases was performed by the family’s mother- was a key moment in the construction of the family’s narrative. During this process the filers would prefer different kinds of order to the chronological order, placing these photos into many, many albums. The result would be a trip album, albums of family visits to different places, albums of the “little kid of the house” where the photos of the child would be taken out of context, seen through the months or years, also photo albums sent from faraway places by a relative.


It seems that chronological order and accuracy in notes and information never were a goal of family albums. This is a characteristic that probably is to blame for the fragmentary remembrance of a family’s history produced by these photo albums, which could only be explained by the remaining living relatives.



"What is time?

If nobody asks I know,

if anyone asks I don't."

-San Agustin-


Contrary to the traditional ways of storing images, moblogs inflexibly impose the chronological order. Photos cease to be seen individually and become a true “family” of images, a photo follows another, that is the sister of the next one and so on. Sequence links the pictures, not their subject.


My son, Vicente, Two minutes later, my son Joaquin.
The bottom picture was taken before. Published by JG in Textamerica


Used to seeing family photos with unclear dates, I discovered that the accuracy in the timeline that is offered by the moblogs could be the key in a different kind of family narrative.


Photos used to be dated by the photo lab and presented the date in which the photos were developed
(The focus of the Nokia does not allow to see JUL 76K)




As days go by (my moblog goes back to July 2003) I feel more anxious about losing the family photos and the relationship they have in the moblog. I have made allsorts of backups but I have the feeling of not possessing them, Until they are printed I feel these pictures do not exist completely; There is an non transferable documentary aspect in printing that cannot be escaped not by me or by the photos.


In attempting to store the photos I have published in Textamerica and Buzznet I have printed some mosaics that put together entire sequences of photos taken with a cell phone.


A printed series taken with a Nokia 6600


Either small or big, I do not think that family photos really “exist” until they are printed. It is most important for a family photographer to have a hard copy in any format, so they can grow old being somewhere around the house and not in a CD or a server.


In this sense, moblogs are not less limited than any other digital storing method. But they have instilled a new desire, to know in detail relationships, dates and captions. Even more, if, I could I would want to have the date and time of publishing and the time it was captured by the telephone. Even better I would like to have my pictures with the date and time in which they were captured by the telephone, not the time and date in which they were published in the server.


Another series printed in a 10x15 format





We used to take around 300 family photos each year before the telephones with cameras, now I take that number in 6 weeks.


When one of my children arrives from school, when we go out for a walk, when we go shopping, I take and publish a picture in any time.


While I walk with my son Pedro, we go by the MIguel Cane public library,
where Jorge Luis Borges worked for may years. Pedro listens to my story and looks at the place.





If I keep up this rate of photographing (6.5 family photos per day) I will have 2372 in a year. Strictly placed one after the other. If I decided to print all those photos in a 10x15 format costing $0.75 (in any currency) I would have to spend $1779.00. I would need sixty eight 36-photo albums of each, or twenty three 100-photo albums that would take most of my library. If lined up, these photos would be over 14 miles long. Just in a year.


My wife and I. I stretch my arm, look up and shoot as if photographed by someone else.
This is one of the few possibilities of entering to my moblog without doing the typical self-portrait.
Nokia in front of the mirror. Note: My wife is taller than me.



I can imagine my 23720 photos in 10 years as long as we don’t travel and no other family member decides to take any photos. In 10 years I would have 140 miles worth of photos. It would take 2 hours by car going to 62 miles an hour to see them all.





In his text “Del rigor en la Ciencia” (On the rigor of Science, english version), Argentinian write Jorge Luis Borges imagines an empire whose cartographers are so deft as to manage to make a “Map equal in size to the Empire Itself” .Borges in the same text tells us that the following generations discovered the uselessness of such a map, and “ abandoned it to the cruelty of the Sun and the winter”.


A portrait of Borges in Harvard University’s Gazette.



(Original text and audio from the author)



I understand that my moblog , my map of family pictures will tend to turn into the map of Borges’ cartographers, Such accuracy renders the album useless. An album in which each day is divided into “6.5 chapters”.


This accumulation of photographs is so curious that when I revisit my moblog nothing draws my attention more than the missing photos, the unrecorded things. Then I ask myself “What happened between the supermarket photo and the photo of my wife in front of the computer? What did I see and not photograph that I don’t remember?”


No matter what I do or how I store it, my grandchildren or their children will leave these photos to the sun.


The melancholic site of derelict pictures


Julian Gallo
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Julian Gallo is professor of New Media in the joint Master’s program of Journalism of the San Andrés University, Columbia University and the Clarín news group.





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