FoundView's Internet policy

In the past, designated spokespersons for FoundView occasionally participated in online photography discussion forums. As of September, 1998, they no longer do so.

Part of the reason for this change in policy is sheerly logistical: when FoundView is being discussed in multiple, unlinked forums, there's no way to keep on top of them—and even if there were, there's little more we can say to expand on the 35,000 words on this web site. Reasoned, thorough contributions to such forums take considerable time to compose, and there is rarely time to write and post a thoughtful response in an online forum before the discussion has moved on to a different topic.

A second reason for the policy is tied to an inherent limitation of Internet forums. Photography forums on the Internet are excellent sources (often, the best) of quick, useful information about equipment, materials, techniques, locations, regulations, business practices, and so on. But the same format that makes these forums ideal for exchanging information shortchanges them when it comes to philosophical discussions, i.e., logical progressions of thought, with carefully reasoned arguments eloquently put forth from a variety of well-considered viewpoints without rancor or name-calling. When it comes to online "threads" (single-topic discussions) on philosophical or ethical matters, all too often a small minority will dominate the discussion, while countless others who might have something thoughtful to contribute stay on the sidelines (perhaps because they've learned that the forum format doesn't encourage their brand of thoughtfulness—or because they simply don't have time). Threads on divisive or unresolvable subjects quickly outline the major disagreements, then after a day or two inevitably devolve into heated exchanges of name-calling between a handful of people. The "discussion" steadily spirals downward until everyone but the last two or three combatants has turned out the lights and left the room.

A third reason for FoundView's abstention from online forums is that the perspective of "the typical viewer" (i.e., the layperson who knows little or nothing about how photographs are made) is by definition rarely represented there. While discussions between practicing photographers may be ideal for exchanging information about equipment and technique, FoundView has from the beginning been influenced by, designed for, and premised on the needs and expectations of the viewer as much as the photographer. To have the perspective of at least half of our constituency left out of the conversation would inevitably affect the chances of balance in such a discussion.

Finally, the forums tend not to incorporate the views of another huge portion of the FoundView constituency: women. Although (or perhaps because) the photographer who initially conceived FoundView was male, we have striven to give reasonably equal balance to the views of men and women. Participants in online photography forums, probably because of the attention these forums give to equipment and technical topics, tend to be overwhelmingly male—often well over 90 percent. Again, that's fine when it comes to informational threads—most photography equipment is purchased by men—but it is not the same as a democratic representation of the breadth of people who benefit from FoundView, including viewers.

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At FoundView we continue, of course, to depend on photographers' input, and we encourage thoughtful discussion about FoundView in any arena. (When FoundView is discussed in online forums, the increasing number of photographers who are using FoundView can speak on its behalf. FoundView has always reflected a consensus based on a wide variety of influences, precedents, and experiences, and the more that new FoundView proponents discuss its role in their work, the more wide-ranging and appealing the standard will become. We confidently trust this diverse group to carry the FoundView flag in any discussion.) We also welcome direct correspondence, to which we respond as we have the resources for doing so and to the degree it is worthwhile to do so (i.e., we do not wish to argue with the merely contentious or those who see no need for any standard; such exchanges waste both parties' time).

We feel a need to declare this policy only because contributors to online forums occasionally try to portray our noninvolvement in their favorite forum—our apparent "silence"—as a sure sign that we have no rejoinder to the brilliant points they are making there. That assertion is, as we hope this web site makes clear, patently false.