dark data

An ongoing discussion in my documentary photo class oscillates around the question, why are we primarily drawn to images of negativity (suffering, destruction)? The current reading for the class, Susan Sontag’s excellent essay, ‘Looking At War’ (first published in The New Yorker, 12-09-2002) considers this in relation to memory and the objectification of, for instance, suffering. Consequently, what becomes less apparent is the imagery of positivity, and its place in the overall effectiveness of and experience of looking at photographs.

photo: Mauricio Allejo

What may be interesting is what I consider a parallel discussion going on in the sciences, which is now being termed as ‘dark data’. Wired magazine has just published, as it often does, a short and accessible primer on the subject. i.e. ‘non-results’ in scientific research. While this kind of research result may not be noteworthy (for hegemonic or other reasons), there is a growing appreciation of its worth. Similarly with imagery of not-suffering. What do you think?