Remembering the future: the vernacular, technology, and memory

Vickers, Richard (2015) Remembering the future: the vernacular, technology, and memory. In: Changing Platforms of Memory Practices. Technologies, User Generations and Amateur Media DIspositifs., 10-12 September 2015, University of Groningen, Netherlands.

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Item Type:Conference or Workshop contribution (Paper)
Item Status:Live Archive


In the mid-19th century, the era that saw the birth of photography, the poet Charles Baudelaire wrote a portrait of the flâneur as a reconnoiter of the city. In the 1920’s Walter Benjamin proposed that Baudelaire’s flâneur was significant in the developing concept of modernity and urbanization, and that the rise of consumer capitalism in the early 20th century signaled the demise of the flâneur. Today we may challenge Benjamin’s proposition, as nothing signifies current consumer culture than the smart phone, the ubiquitous symbol of the era: these devices with GPS geotagging, utilized by many, perhaps make contemporary flâneurs of us all. In the 1990’s the Web began to facilitate a participatory media sharing culture that has become increasingly realized in the early 21st century with the development of social media platforms, combined with the ever-increasing media recording abilities of the smart phone. These devices may signify the final stage in the process of the democratization of photography that began in 1900 with the release of the Kodak box Brownie camera that first made photography affordable to the masses. The nascent amateur photographer, capturing scenes of the everyday and the prosaic, began a new genre of photography: the vernacular of the snapshot. Today social media networks such as Facebook, micro-blogging service Twitter and media sharing platforms including YouTube, Vimeo, Instagram, Flickr and more recently the short-form video sharing service Vine, facilitate the instant sharing of the vernacular (still and moving) to family and friends or the public at large. As Rubinstein and Sluis state: “the networking of the snapshot provides something which vernacular photographers have always lacked: a broad audience.” However in this age of immediacy, without the need to process film, these snapshots (still and moving media) are easily deleted and increasingly ephemeral. The networking of media and the exponential development of digital technologies in general, may pose a challenge to remembering in the future, especially the vernacular, the nuance of the everyday. Vinton Cerf, one of the pioneers of the Internet, recently warned that the 21st century may be the ‘digital dark age’ [3], and that humanity’s first steps into the digital world could be lost to future historians. How will we remember the future?

Keywords:Photography, digital vernacular, Technology, Memory, Social Media, bmjholiday
Subjects:P Mass Communications and Documentation > P300 Media studies
W Creative Arts and Design > W640 Photography
Divisions:College of Arts > Lincoln School of Film & Media > Lincoln School of Film & Media (Media)
ID Code:18493
Deposited On:31 Aug 2015 16:06

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