Even as ‘digital archivists’, we need to put down our cameras and smartphones - and just enjoy the moment

'While a smartphone’s video camera allows us to remember our experiences at music concerts, how many of us will really watch back those videos?'

Dean Pomeroy
Friday 22 January 2016 14:18

The ever-progressing state of technology, at first glance, benefits us greatly. The ability to video chat with family and friends, from the other side of the world, is something that can’t be beaten by anything pre-Skype or FaceTime. There have never been more opportunities for recording and sharing powerful moments, regardless of geographical boundaries.

However, we often misuse this potential. While a smartphone’s video camera allows us to remember our experiences at music concerts for decades to come, how many of us will really watch back those videos, instead of watching the official broadcast version, with better sound and image quality?

There is also the argument that we spend too much time focused on recording the moment, to actually be able to enjoy it. The fact in itself that many people claim to need a ‘digital detox’ shows that something must have gone wrong, somewhere. Even celebrities, that group of people who live life in the public eye, have started to think the same way.

Think back to September, when a picture of a woman watching the Pope go by was widely shared on Twitter, due to her ‘living in the moment’ and not watching the procession through a digital screen.

There have been many attempts to remedy this, and help archive a moment without detracting from the experience. One such is the app Beme, through which users share short video messages between friends similarly to Snapchat. It’s niche is its focus on removing the “calculated, calibrated version of who we are” by offering no options to retake a photo or edit it afterwards. Users simply hold the phone against them, record the moment, and then it sends to their friends, without needing to look at the screen again.

Such an app is a way of sharing short moments between friends, but another approach is targeted more towards recording the user’s longer life events. When Google Glass was announced, one of the best received functions was as a point-of-view video camera that is always present, and ready to record hands free, high quality video at will. Many critics have argued this, and the ‘lifelogging’ devices that followed, are a potential solution to how we can record a moment and still engage in it as much as possible.

Even if this is the case, the question previously asked still stands: how often will we go back and revisit these moments? It’s easy to argue that familial recordings are precious and the more we can record, the better, as children grow up quickly, and family members come in and out of our lives with the passing years. Surely, we reason, every moment is golden, and we should embrace such advances in technology with open arms.

However, this is not always the case. As a young adult whose parents were not particularly technological, my childhood years are documented by a small collection of photo albums from old film cameras. While there are only a handful of pictures of me at, say, six-years-old, all of these moments are noteworthy, even if I sometimes have to read the caption on the back to remember why.

This contrasts with the photo albums of my younger sibling , who grew up when our family first started using digital cameras. Although this meant dozens of photos could be taken for no extra cost, increasing the chances of a perfectly composed picture, there are simply too many images to order them in any way. Instead of having a clear progression of youth, we have a continuous stream of consciousness in digital form.

Alongside this, while physical images can be destroyed or fade with time, so too can digital items. Hardware can become obsolete, drives can become corrupt, and computers can break down. Even cloud-based storage can be destroyed without warning - it seems unlikely, but it’s exactly what happened to anyone who used the website megaupload.com.

Ultimately, technology gives us limitless potential, but we need to be wary of misusing it. We need to make sure we appreciate the present moment for what it is, even as we try to record it for the future. We need to act as digital archivists, preserving a few important moments from mountains of data, in digital and physical form if possible. And perhaps, most importantly of all, we need to remember that sometimes it is best to put the device down and simply enjoy the occasion.

Twitter: @D3KN0W

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