Gangnam Style is being remixed and appropriated all over the planet. Reminds me of a wonderful recent piece by Tod Machover in which he talks about his daughter and her friends remixing as the principal way of sharing things they love. Visions of the future.
Here are three of my favorites.
“A photograph is made of time as much as it is of light — a frozen shutter-speed-size gap of the present captured within a photo border. Despite this, photographs have always been a way to cheat death, or at least to declare the illusion of immortality through lasting visual evidence. There’s always the possibility that the next photo you take will one day be lovingly removed from a box by some unborn great-grandchild; the Polaroid developing in your hands might come to be pinned to someone’s bedpost in posterity. To update that to more contemporary terms, your selfie on Instagram might be a signpost for the future you of what it was like to be this young.
On Snapchat, images have no such future. Fittingly, its logo is a ghost.
By refuting the assumption of the permanence of the image, Snapchat is a radical departure. It inaugurates temporary photography . . . “
The New York TImes published an article today about Snapchat — the service that lets you send photos and texts that quickly self-destruct as soon as the person you’ve sent them to has seen them. Impermanence is the point.
Before digital (BD), that is in the era of print, photographs were intended to be printed and preserved; indeed that was the whole point — to save a moment in time. And the focus on preservation followed us into the digital era. We are endlessly making back-ups, making sure that everything is always with us. The terminology itself is deeply rooted in the paradigm of print — digital libraries, file systems, folders, etc.
When people started talking about the possibility of media that isn’t frozen at the moment of publication, works that are always in process, a hue and cry went up expressing concern about versions. If there weren’t clearly identified versions people asked, how would we be able to refer to a work and carry on a conversation over time. In response I suggested that future media would be more like life, flowing like a river, always changing, always in motion.
Snapchat which is being adopted quickly by the generation that has grown up with Facebook indicates an historic shift, the upending of preservation as the core issue of future media. The long-term future of discourse will not be dea. intellectual output will flow like streams into rivers. the whole will be much greater than the sum of its parts.
For anyone interested in this subject, I would also recommend David Gelernter’s article in Wired this week. I don’t agree with Gelernter on a lot of things, but in terms of a shift from space-based to time-based reality i think he’s been right on this since he first put it forward in the 90s. The implication is that the long-term future of discourse is not to be divided and frozen into archival versions; rather intellectual output will flow like streams into rivers and the whole will be much greater than the sum of its parts.
An article in today’s New York Times provides a terrific example of how shifts in the mechanisms of distribution and consumption work over time to produce significant changes in the mode of expression itself.
“House of Cards, which is the first show made specifically for Netflix, dispenses with some of the traditions that are so common on network TV, like flashbacks. There is less reason to remind viewers what happened in previous episodes, the producers say, because so many viewers will have just seen it. And if they don’t remember, Google is just a click away. The show “assumes you know what’s happening all the time, whereas television has to assume that a big chunk of the audience is always just tuning in,” said Ted Sarandos, Netflix’s chief content officer.”