Let's Build a VCU Open Photo Collection: VCUOpenPhoto

I work in the ALT Lab at VCU as Senior Specialist for Learning Media Innovation. My work routinely involves the use of images for the creation of digital stories and increasingly, the creation of course trailers and course content in video format, which is largely for access via the internet. I have also been assisting faculty in the creation of their own digital stories for teaching and sharing course related narratives. In turn, many faculty have encouraged students to create their own projects. Working in an educational environment pretty much dictates that faculty, students and staff who engage in this practice, must have access to freely available resources. Hence, I have practiced and promoted the use of Creative Commons licensed materials, with attribution to the kind people who provide them.

We live in the 21st century and have access to networks and wonderful resources that are shared by millions through Creative Commons licensing, with the intent of fostering creativity and learning. Why then in my own institution, is it so difficult to find good images to represent campus life and learning opportunities that I or others might use to create work, without having to purchase images? In my search for VCU images, I found a collection of 52 images that I am authorized to download (http://www.identity.vcu.edu/downloads/vcu/photo.aspx). Fifty-two images to represent VCU and the rich life this institution provides our students and faculty. When I search Flickr, I find many more images related to VCU, but alas, they often link back to VCU closed repositories and use is restricted.

Recently, I edited videos to introduce students to an international program that is hosted by VCU. This project required time consuming research for CC images. I experienced enormous frustration about finding (or not finding) VCU images that we can use without paying Creative Services (CS) and without marketing control. This has led me the idea to create a #VCUOpenPhoto (#VCUOpenVideo) collection that can easily be developed through crowdsourcing images from the VCU community. Such a project could also be used as an opportunity to foster digital literacy in the VCU community (including alumni) and grow a collection that can also demonstrate the power of networks (people and digital), RSS, tagging, and other means to pull together a digital collection that is in the control of the contributors and that can be dynamically added to at any time. Will this create challenges? Yes. Will this create concerns? Yes. Will this need some form of curation? Maybe.

We need an open collection of images images. We have a community of 30,000 students, plus faculty/staff. We live in the midst of creative people. If every student faculty member provided just one image of something they feel is important, beautiful, thought provoking, representative of VCU life and or study, we could quickly build a collection that can be endlessly expand. This project should emphasize openness, Creative Commons license, as a basis for establishing standards. This project could serve to inform and educate people about digital standards, size images, that you stand, etc.

The development of such a project could interface with Tom Woodward’s (@twoodwar) photo safaris and we could use the idea of tagging images for search under different criteria.

Our culture is changing our incoming students will be expected to blog. This implies they know or will learn how to use digital resources in appropriate and creative ways. Why don’t we use this idea to develop digital literacy? We are a community of creative people, with one of the finest art schools in the world on campus. We have people who are familiar with creating good photographs for various reasons. Let's be a bit radical, let's represent the ALT Lab philosophy and the philosophy of openness.

Please add your comments and let's build this collection together.

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