Lack Of Agency

Lack Of Agency

Seth Godin’s recent post hit a nerve:

There are institutions, professionals and organizations that would like you to believe that you don’t have much choice in the matter.

They want to take away your agency, because it makes their job easier or their profits higher.

But you have more choice than you know.

In our recent move, I’ve twice dealt with corporations and utilities that have made me feel like I have no agency. Most recently, Apple Support left me hanging on an Apple ID and iTunes issue. Apple! A company I’ve supported each of my adult years!

Call support centers are a form of capitalist nihilism. There’s no reason for any of the decisions made except to make the company’s situation better, and to help you feel powerless. It’s rare that a support interaction has a positive outcome – so rare, that we marvel at Creation when it happens.

My Apple interaction was especially galling. From 2005-2008, I purchased a bunch of music under an old Apple ID. From 2008 on, I’ve been purchasing music from a different Apple ID, unaware of the consequences, so now I have a bunch of music in limbo. The support center’s solution? “Switch Apple IDs each time you want to listen to that music.” Helpful! And silly. What they don’t tell you is that each time you switch Apple IDs in iTunes, it locks the previous Apple ID for 90 days.

Three months! Unacceptable. And completely arbitrary.

So now I’ll be sticking to downloading my music from companies with fewer arbitrary restrictions (as Godin writes, keeping the “ability to shop around”). It’s one of the reasons I don’t rely on subscription-based music services. There is, by definition, no agency involved in that transaction. If you unsubscribe, all the music goes away.

The larger point can be applied to creativity and photography, of course. There’s creative agency – that sense of not being held hostage by expectations and self-imposed pressure. On the technology side, by submitting our work to Instagram and Tumblr, you’re giving up a bit of agency. And if something goes wrong, your only recourse is a faceless call center, if that.

My one weak spot: Flickr. I rely on Ol’ Reliable for so much of what I do, including image hosting for this very blog. And I have a lot of time and infrastructure wrapped up in that website. If something goes wrong, I’ll be in a bit of trouble. It won’t be catastrophic, but it certainly won’t be fun.

When we keep our agency, in the form of hosted, backed-up websites and blogs, we have a bit more say in the matter. We can always pack up and put up our tent somewhere else.


We Need A Film Camera Revival, Too

Tomyko LT002

Think about it: there used to be a photo developing station in every grocery store. You could (and in some cases, still can) pick up film in a gas station. People would print photos and bind them together into books that became family heirlooms. Then it all went away.

Now it’s all making a comeback. You can get specialty film, professional films, and boutique revival films. We shot photos at our wedding and this weekend’s move using Fuji’s Instax camera. Me? I’m trying out a pack of Lomography’s new film for an upcoming project.

But the good news is all on the film side. The other side of the equation – new film cameras – isn’t returning at the same speed as film stock. Why is that?

Leica is doing their thing, but that’s out of the reach of most photographers. Nikon has the F6, still in production, and Lomo does a good business. But from there, medium- and large-format film cameras are the only ones still in production. Where are the new 35mm cameras to meet this growing film demand? Is the demand still not at a level for camera manufacturers to supply new gear?

Not that there’s any reason to worry; there are tons of used film cameras out there waiting to be rediscovered and refurbished (it’s coming up on yard sale season, after all). For the most part, buying a decent film camera is way more affordable than buying a new digital camera.

Maybe that’s when we’ll know film is back in a big way: Pentax, Canon, Fuji, and the rest fire up their film camera production machines again.


Moving Day

Well, it’s done – we took the weekend and moved into our new house.

Despite some bumps and bruises, and a run-in with the local utility, we’re all moved in and getting settled. Luckily, we had a lot of help from friends and family, so we got most of it done on Saturday.

Moving is a stressful time for me, as it is for most people. Mostly, I try to focus on the task at hand and get the job done. From here, I’ll worry about making this new house feel like our home. It’s all the little things – finding the new morning routine, or the location of my shoes (where DID I leave those?) – that trips me up.