Notes towards a future understanding of distributed documenting behavior.
It’s conventional to sneer about “people living to take photos” rather then living to live. Going to a party/concert/art/explosion to photograph it rather then experience it.
I’ve never really bought that. (see also: working at Flickr) I tend to be skeptical by default of activities that arise (rather then are marketed) on the edges and are denigrated by folks with cultural weight.
But it struck me tonight that I think it might be part of a larger shift around identity, fluidity, and information flow.
Here is the early 21st century we’re ravenous information omnivores. We also live in uncertain times, where normalcy is rapidly overthrown and little is predictable. You can (almost) imagine a world in which you could predict your life rolling out before you, I’ll live here, I’ll do that, I’ll know these people the rest of my life, we’ll have the same shared set of stories. Given the retreat from that world, the documented individual experience aren’t bragging so much as tentacles we extrude to catch moment of shared sameness.
But what about all those photos we shoot that we don’t even share, what’s happening there?
I’m not entirely sure, but reading 24 Hour Bookstore tonight, and having to flip back a few pages to hilight a passage that I was still thinking about, I realize that this bookmarking behaviour is probably a form of wayfinding and partially a form of commons. I think as a generation we’re actually pretty good at imagining the idea that small contributions of order actually improve the world, and that also small bits of bookmarking will help us find our way back through the river of information we’re deluged with.
Or at least something is making it deeply compelling, and bragging is an insufficient answer.