Photography, as information both cultural and personal, is on the brink of a profound change. Photography has never really been part of the information revolution in a truly integrated way. Computers (and the Web) are fundamentally text-information oriented systems. We can store photos digitally, we can manipulate individual photos, and we can compile them into assemblages, all electronically. But they're still discrete documents, whole unto themselves, and their information content really isn't available except when you cyber-pick them up and look at them. All the Web does is let you look at photos faster, but you can't really search or combine their native visual content the way you can with textual information. The only way around that is via indirect, time-consuming and clunky database and keyword entry by some hapless human being. It's inefficient, it's incomplete, and it's highly fallible.
On my computer, all my writing and correspondence is almost instantly accessible. I didn't have to build cross references or databases; with a gigaflop-plus at my fingertips, I can dig up text and context on just about anything I've written in the past 15 years in a minute or so with some simple search queries. All at my fingertips, and all merged into a single reference if I so desire.
I simply can't do any that with photographs.
Soon I will be able to. Watch this video and be amazed.
I am in awe . I mean it, really serious awe. Seadragon and Photosynth are going to deeply and profoundly change the import of photography in the world. And the import of visual information on the Web.
Take note; this is not pie-in-the-sky technology demonstration and vaporware. These are products that are well advanced on their way to roll-out. Google "Seadragon" and "Photosynth" and you get a bunch of useful links, including being directed to the Microsoft site where you can download some of the beta software and run it now (you'll need a high-performance graphics card and Windows XP SP2 or Vista).
I can't say it's all too cool for words, because I just wrote about it, but it comes pretty close. This stuff is mondo scary amazing. It's too bad it comes from the Evil Empire, but y'know if Microsoft would keep giving me this kind of stuff instead of trying to foist Windows on me, I think I just might be willing to let them take over the world.