One of the earliest discussions to emerge during the Zap conference centered around the what seems to be a growing drive to record everything and every moment (by twittering it, Plazing it, photographing it, etc.)
The questions that emerged were: Does recording the moment change it? In recording it, are we essentially mediating it for ourselves, taking a step back and observing rather than simply experiencing? Are we stepping outside the moment in the act of recording (or thinking about recording) it, essentially separating ourselves from the experience to a certain degree?
Opinions were mixed. Thinking about it more, I believe that recording a moment does, in fact, separate you from it to a certain extent. And I think that the more you record or think about recording, the less present you actually are.
A few years ago I was in Amsterdam to attend a conference. Naturally we went a little early and stayed a little late so we could take time to experience the city, and during that time I took hundreds of photographs, most of which were just terrible. In spite of taking all these photos, however, my most memorable moment in Amsterdam was when I encountered the works of Vermeer at the Rijksmuseum. They are absolutely breathtaking. Looking at prints in books just doesn’t come anywhere close to the experience of seeing the originals. It was overwhelming and deeply emotional and really quite astonishing for me. I have never had so visceral a reaction to art before, and it was entirely unexpected. I will never, ever forget that experience. And I didn’t take a single picture while I was there. Not one. And my other memories of Amsterdam are of moments where I wasn’t bothering to take photographs. Dinner with friends and coworkers. Having drinks with Rob at a small side street cafe. Talking to some locals while exploring the city’s nightlife. Almost getting killed by a ravaging horde of cyclists before I figured out how traffic worked. Sitting in the lobby watching people walk by the hotel in the morning, drinking insanely good coffee.
The photographs I took? I don’t remember experiencing the thing in the photo, I remember taking the photo. Recording the moment separated me from it, and it now feels almost fake.
We’re going to France soon. We’ve never been before, and I’m really excited about the trip. While I expect I will take my camera with me wherever we go, I am going to be much more deliberate and thoughtful about what I photograph. Rather than taking hundreds of photos of everything, I’m going to take only a few — and only if they’re worthy of being photographs — and spend more of my time actually being in the moment, paying attention, experiencing. What I learned from Amsterdam is that the strongest memories are made this way, not by flipping through a shoebox of pictures when you get home.
Uneventful if typically annoying travel day today. Headed out at 10:30a Eastern for a noon flight, 2 hr layover in Chicago, then out to San Jose for a 6:00p Pacific arrival. Made it to the hotel OK, but made the very foolish mistake of not getting cash at the airport. Ho ho. I will not be making that mistake again. Getting food is going to be challenging since I can’t find an ATM (people here look at you funny when you ask for a “bank machine”, so “ATM” it is) and the Wendy’s across the street has a non-functional Interac machine. Crapsticks. Of course at this point it’s 11:10p Eastern and I’m fading fast. I’ll probably just skip dinner and get up bright and early to take fullest advantage of the complimentary continental breakfast.
Anyhow, for those of you who care (hi Mom! hi Dad!) I made it here safely. Will be flying back to Ottawa on Saturday.
Back in Ottawa after a whirlwind week in Mountain View. Summary of the return trip: Chicago airport is as insane on Saturdays as Fridays, so that’s right out now. All future trips will avoid ORD if possible. Luggage: lost (at ORD, natch), but it managed to catch a later flight and get a cab home within 24hrs. McDonald’s: as foul as I remember it being, particularly when you’re trying to juggle a full Quarter Pounder combo while hauling carry-on and trying to find a seat somewhere near the correct gate. WiFi: always too expensive. 4 hour layover: not bad considering that the Ottawa flight that was supposed to leave 3 hours before mine ended up leaving at basically the same time. Could have been worse. Random rumour has it that there will (someday) be a direct Ottawa > San Jose flight. That would seriously, seriously rule, but I’m not holding my breath.
Left Ottawa at some ungodly hour this morning (4:30a) and after a quick pitstop in Detroit am now in (not so) sunny Seattle. A few notes:
- Flying on Sundays is utterly humane compared to Mondays. Both flights were on time, and the first was 1/3rd empty.
- Detroit’s airport is much nicer than Chicago’s. This may be because it was 7:00a on a Sunday and basically empty, and Detroit has a much trippier tunnel between terminals.
- Sleeping on airplanes only barely counts as sleep if you’re stuck in the aisle seat.
- People in Seattle are really nice.
- This hotel has duckies.
I’m only here for a conference tomorrow then off to Mountain View for the rest of the week. I will be offline all of Monday, but will be back Tuesday (albeit in the wrong timezone). Flying back Saturday morning, although through Chicago with (for some stupid reason) a 4.5 hour layover. Not quite sure how I let that happen.