Angry Robot

Ubiquitous Capture

This article about a pillowfight event at Nathan Phillips Square notes the huge numbers of cameras present: “there were so many lenses that when, as the number of participants started dwindling after about an hour, those with cameras actually started to outnumber those with pillows.”

It would be remiss, when talking of technologies that spread like the zombie plague, to not mention photography. At a recent show at a small venue, we couldn’t help but notice just how often camera flashes were going off. Nothing spectacular was happening – it wasn’t anyone’s wedding and no-one was on the red carpet, it was just people taking pictures of their friends – but when ten out of forty are taking pictures at any given moment, it starts to seem like the inevitable future is upon us: people taking pictures of people taking pictures.

There are advantages to the outsourcing of memory. But the proliferation of image capture causes many problems, summed up by the Borges character who can remember everything and remarks, “my mind is like a garbage heap”. You know that feeling when you’ve taken a ton of pics on your digicam and you can’t be bothered to sort through them for hours finding the good ones? So you import them and then don’t even look at them? There are two paradoxes at play: in the pillowfight instance, the urge to capture the event destroys the actual event; and with the Borges example, the ability to remember everything prevents you from remembering any one thing.

When I think of possible solutions, I come up with the idea of a “crowdsourced” version of the roller-coaster picture setup where you purchase your photo on the ride afterwards. If I could easily grab someone else’s photo of a given event, perhaps I wouldn’t feel the need to take a photo myself. But despite the possibility this could happen what with geotagged photos and whatnot, I doubt it will take off, since we all view our memories as personal. We don’t want to admit that a collective memory-image of an event will do just fine. This memory/photo is my own. Despite the fact that it looks like everyone else’s.