The Digital Human, Radio 4, Monday
Tom Wrigglesworth's Open Letters, Radio 4, Thursday
Our digital quandary – live it now or record for posterity?
There was a television documentary recently about the Costa Concordia – the ship that hit the rocks off the Italian coast – consisting of 90 minutes of passengers' footage from camcorders and mobile phones. Even as the vessel was slipping beneath the waves they carried on filming.
It was the perfect illustration of how we live in a constant state of image-capture, one of the themes of The Digital Human, the first of a two-parter in which the tech writer Aleks Krotoski explores the ways new technology is changing our lives. She spoke to the nature diarist Paul Evans, who fears that as we strive to record and archive everything, our actual depth of experience gets shallower – we're thinking primarily of what image we can put online. He recalled a story by John Fowles about how the writer went for a walk and spotted an orchid. He studied it closely in order to take a perfect photo, then walked on – and suddenly realised he hadn't "seen" the flower at all.
As my family's designated snapper I constantly confront the same problem: do I actually experience this moment, or do I concentrate on capturing it for posterity? Life in the raw, or life through a viewfinder? And given that our memories are constructed and reconstructed partly through the images that remain of them, Evans asked a pertinent and disturbing question: will we become less competent at remembering events that haven't been recorded?
Another constant state we live in is that of being ripped off by insurance companies, and in Tom Wrigglesworth's Open Letters the comedian put them squarely in his sights. Framed as a letter to Kevin Chidwick, managing director of the price comparison website confused.com, it was actually a bit of a cheat: he addressed Chidwick for the first couple of minutes, and returned to him at the end, but the bulk of the programme was bog-standard stand-up.
Funny, though (apart from a long anecdote about his friend Jane and her stolen car that needed ruthless editing). "Insurance," he began, addressing Chidwick, "separates us from the animals – that and the fact that we don't lick our own genitals. Some of us have tried, and, indeed, succeeded. But I haven't written to you just to boast ...."
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