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Ownership of time

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Friday, Jul 28, 2006

Today I saw tourists filming their strolls down Fifth Avenue, as usual, and I started wondering if we have already reached a point where unrecorded experience has become negligible. Why bother doing anything that you can’t record and transform into a souvenir, a precious object that proves your vacationing prowess and power? Unrecorded experience, from this perspective, belongs to someone else—your employer (who may have your time recorded on surveillance tapes), your family, the commuting gods, etc.—and recorded experience is the objectified time that you truly own. In the rush for people to own their own leisure time, they seem to be skipping the direct experience itself, preferring to record it as it happens and enjoy it later, which suggests that unmediated experience now may seem less real than mediated experience. We are used to seeing an event’s appearance in the media as indicative of its relevance,  as a potent symbol of social recognition. So it makes sense we would discount our own experiences that can’t be so configured, and that technology would be seeming to head irrevocably down a path that allows for an ever greater amount of our experience to be digitized and stored—portable digital cameras, etc. Perhaps eventually we will supplant our faulty natural memory with terabyte drives that store everything in a much more reliable searchable architecture.

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