As a media interlocutor on the DirtPol project in Nigeria, my brief is to explore mediating agents with the intent of collecting and archiving public perceptions of dirt in urban Lagos (Nigeria). In the course of the job, two interesting ways people see or perceive things manifested. The first is: most people and their stated positions on issues are largely informed by perception more than empirical evidence; and the second is: perceptions may not always be correct. The obligation to write within a given time and space in this paper will prevent an in-depth explanation of perception as a mental organon created from intrinsic and extrinsic impulsions; however, it is important to note that perceptions are conscious or unconscious accumulation of stimulus which informs thought and action. It is like the temptation of concluding that a soup is sweet, just from the smell of its aroma. Thus, to have a profound postulation of any idea, there is a need to sample varying perceptions of such idea.
On realising that I will be dealing with perceptions of dirt in the course of my data collection, I carried out a few investigations on the concept of perception. The result turned out to reinforce my humanistic training in Literature; that, there is no absolute truth or morality on any issue for as long as you are not the only one looking at it. Now, the question is: how does perception relates with medium and ethics? Medium is a communicative method which involves mediating agents like television, radio, social media print media and photography. Perception, on the other hand, relates to the way individuals perceive the communicative process which has been mentioned already. Photography being a medium happens to be an interesting part of my job; this is because of the multiplicity of perceptions that can be generated from its analysis; what Philip Sidney (1579) refers to as “speaking picture”.
As interesting as it is to generate ideas through pictures, I have surprisingly realised that most of the beautiful photographs, with scenarios denoting dirt, are unethical by ERC standard. The ERC standard forbids putting up photographs with people’s faces for interpretation or discussion without their written consent. Getting consents is a great idea, but how is one supposed to get consent from thousands of people in a market scenario? Or in a public rally against tribal or gender prejudices? This is an aspect of the ERC ethics that interests me as a researcher on the DirtPol project; especially when I compare the huge collections of Nigerian print media in my archive, and the many ‘unethical’ pictures that are put up. I see a contradiction which tells me that, what is ethical for the ERC may not be ethical for Nigerian media. In keeping with the ERC ethics on photo capture, I have learnt to crop or cut off faces when doing photo capture. By blurring or cutting off faces from photographs, which is another medium, new vistas of meanings are recommended. It also speaks of the varying institutional perceptions as far as the ethics of photography is concern; notwithstanding, there is an exceptions to every rule, and this exception is likely to make the burden of photographical ethics light for the researcher on dirt.