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A couple weeks ago, despite the looming end o’ the world, we at ELEVEN resumed our annual holiday gift exchange/battle. Tense bouts of rock-paper-scissors decided who walked away with the most sought-after presents and who went home carrying a Twilight DVD and mask set.
Later on, exhausted from the rigors of gift battle, we made our way over to Scholars for refreshments and a going away salute to intern Tom. Although the atmosphere was festive and full of good cheer, our competitive natures quickly re-emerged and battle resumed at the pool tables. Probably due to end o’ the world anxiety, eight ball matches were particularly fierce - almost diabolical, and underhanded acts of cheating were not uncommon.
Now that the end o’ the world has come and gone without event, we can wholeheartedly enjoy our gifts and start planning revenge.
See you Sunday, 11.11.12. 11am - 3pm. 54 Canal Street, 6th Floor, Boston. We expect the elevator will be working this time.
It’s no news at this point to say that technology is transforming photography in unpredictable ways. By now, in fact, it's hard enough just to try to keep track of every new variation on how this is happening. So here are two recent examples of technology as photographer.
The first is a site called Styleblaster. Basically, its creators have set up a camera on Bedford in Williamsburg that snaps images of everyone who walks by. This is postioned as a “live fashion blog, documenting the style of today.” You’re supposed to click on a top hat icon if you judge a specific pedestrian “stylin’.”
An “about” page offers a more long-winded explanation, in language so silly that I suppose it could be a parody. “We believe this service fills a need for live fashion information .... It will quickly become a destination for New York City peacocks to traipse by and show off what makes the neighborhood hop.”
In other words, the line from Bill Cunningham to the The Sartorialist may as well proceed to a 24-hour automated system. The obvious voyeuristic element here has not gone unnoticed, and the project has also been considered as “Hipster Creepshots.”
If you don’t want to “show off” your personal style, let alone subject it to the judgment of an abstract audience, you can (for now) simply avoid that corner. But if you just can’t stand having your picture taken, you may not be excited to learn about this thing:
The Memoto is a clip-on device that automatically takes pictures every 30 seconds of whatever is in front of it — an example of a “lifelogging” tool that aims to make efforts (like Gordon Bell’s) to document something close to the totality of a person's existence. (Petapixel’s post on the Memoto notes the existence of a similar tool, the Autographer.) What’s relevant here isn’t whether you’d ever use this sort of thing, but whether you might find yourself having lunch with, or simply standing in random proximity to, someone who does.
Perhaps we’re all getting used to the (potentially) surveiled life, or maybe it’s nothing new. But both of these instances follow Google Street View, security cameras, and drones into the category of system-as-photographer.
This isn’t just prevalent, it’s influential. Increasingly, picture-taking people behave like systems: Capture tons of images, upload them all, expect that plenty will be seen no more, and quite possibly less, than once. The cloud is a contact sheet.
This idea of ubiquitous, constant photography raises an interesting question about copyright. If you are uploading thousands of automatically generated photographs, do you maintain copyright on the use of those images? In one sense the images depict your personal choices based on where you go and what you look at, but in another sense you are simply an extension of the tool itself. In the past, a camera was mostly used as a tool that extended the human brain in its quest to express a perspective. The auto camera set up to randomly shoot becomes the creator to which you are added on as a kind of mobility tool.
So who owns these images? What do they express? Who can use them? Would it even be possible to police copyright for millions of auto-generated images?
And on a bigger scale, does this take us to the next level of 'neglecting the actual process of living in order to document the process of living', or does this allow us to unobtrusively document life without interrupting life? When will we have time to look at all of this documentation? Does this bring us closer to the Borgesian idea of a 1:1 scale map of the world?
As a society we still obsess over shiny objects of lust and status, but as these devices become increasingly minimal and similar across brands, will our need for the new begin to subside? Our smartphones are essential tools because they connect us to the world, not because they make us look attractive or because of whiz bang product features. It's the software and connection we're after, and eventually the phones themselves will not be able to shrink anymore without being impossible to hold onto.
What if these smart phones could be simply an aspect of the service plan? Apple rents you a highly durable smart device in the size that works best for you, then charges you for a software and connectivity service plan. When the phone starts to act up or slow down, you just return it and immediately get a "new" one, although there really are very few truly new devices since the phone you drop off gets cleaned, upgraded, refurbished if necessary, and rented to the next person. The high-quality, completely modular device supports years of handling and hardware upgrades.
It seems we are moving toward a connection society and leaving behind the ownership society. The richness of your network is far more important, and a more accurate indicator of status, than the size of your house or the shininess of your toys. Perhaps the next level of innovation will be less about the physical product and ways of increasing sales and more about rethinking the entire ecosystem within which we connect to the world.
So you can only imagine the commotion that erupted when we saw the photo above, taken at a recent LXM PRO event in Utah. It's none other than lacrosse legend Mikey Powell... with a bunch of stickers you might recognize on his helmet.
Instead, we want to be sure you haven't missed Google's coolest maps yet: underwater, in the Great Barrier Reef. Where "Street View" now means something entirely different...
And, while your mouth is already open, let's not forget about Google's much, much bigger project, launched a couple of years ago: the self-driving car - which is a whole other discussion.
Are you Google-fied yet? What will get Google-fied next?