Photo-overload: Everyone’s taking pics, but is anyone really looking? | Erin Anderssen | June 23, 2012 | The Globe and Mail

As photos snapped more casually, ability to remember is being lost, writes @ErinAnderssen.  University-age students are managing their visual personas,   teens are learning.

Last year, one billion mobile phones with cameras were sold around the world; it’s estimated that more than one-third of the earth’s population owns a digital camera. Every two minutes, they snap as many photos as the whole of humanity took in the 1800s, according to calculations by the photo storing site 1000memories. All the pictures ever taken add up to about 3.5 trillion shots, endless digital slideshows of cooing babies and fluffy kittens, to say nothing of the cute top someone saw at Forever 21 and wanted to get their Facebook friends’ opinions about.  […]

If a picture is worth a thousand words, what are a hundred thousand pictures worth? It seems like a calculus of diminishing returns.

“We are living in a time of unprecedented visuality,” says Martin Hand, a sociologist at Queen’s University, and the author of the new book, Ubiquitous Photography. “The irony is that having a photo doesn’t mean you are going to remember. It feels like you have a vast repository of memories. But the number of photographs prompts a certain kind of forgetting.” [….]

Is it true that we have lost the ability to savour a moment for its own sake? The idea that taking a picture in itself distances you from the scene is a debatable one: Sometimes, as Prof. [Susan] Murray [from NYU] points out, it requires a concentration on details you might have overlooked otherwise.

But the research of Dr. Hand, the Queens sociologist, suggests that at least among 20-somethings there is a growing awareness that even as the public replication of digital images makes them powerful, it weakens the value of the photograph itself. In his interviews he found that university students were diligent about managing their visual presences online, especially images of compromising scenarios.

They argued that younger teens, who are new to the technology, and their parents’ generation, who are confused by it, were more careless. But they know better, they said: “I don’t want to be seen all the time.”

Many were also sensitive to the pressure to whitewash their digital selves in hindsight, especially in case of employers’ searches. On the other hand, to preserve private memories some of his interview subjects had begun keeping handwritten diaries so that they could not be edited with a mouse click: “Even if I cross a line out,” one student to told him, “I can see that I once thought this thing.”

Photo-overload: Everyone’s taking pics, but is anyone really looking? | Erin Anderssen | June 23, 2012 | The Globe and Mail at

Photo-overload: Everyone’s taking pics, but is anyone really looking? - The Globe and Mail



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2 comments on “Photo-overload: Everyone’s taking pics, but is anyone really looking? | Erin Anderssen | June 23, 2012 | The Globe and Mail
  1. craig kensek says:

    There’s no incremental cost to taking “a lot” of photos, so unless someone goes way over there limit. In the facebook world, postings with photos get priority. In the facebook world, I’ll look at one photo when someone posts a number of them.


    • Ellie K says:

      I often think that the fact that there was an incremental cost to taking a lot of photos when one used film acted as a quality filter. But I never thought that at the time, only now, with hindsight! I read the 1000memories write-up and was sort of appalled at how much gets photographed but rarely seen. Because of sheer volume of images, there just isn’t enough time. I read a post (Arnaud’s Open blog, “The Facebook Oxymoron”) that seemed to anticipate some of the points made here

      Photographs of meals seems egregious, other than in exceptional situations (which are rare by definition). Or unless one’s field of interest and expertise is culinary arts 😉


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