Technologies of Self & the Future Past

In chapter 6, van Dijck frames two young girls’ wish to be filmed by their father (for the future when they’re famous) as “a conscious steering of the future past” (p.122). The idea of constructing the present for idealized recollection in the future can be easily mapped onto a range of manifestations, from the benign (e.g. a group fake laughing for a photo to capture the great time they are having) to the deeply troublesome (e.g. to conceal a dark reality, such as abuse).

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Subtext: “I have so many friends! I’m so sporty! College is the best ever!”

The concept of cultivating one’s memory is particularly resonant in the “technologies of self” that have come into use and gained widespread popularity since the publication of Mediated Memories in 2007. I’m thinking Instagram, Snapchat. These applications have a reciprocal relationship with the accelerated evolution of our technological devices – from our laptops to our phones, cameras are now routinely embedded in computers, and more and more apps request access to these cameras.

But what are these technologies without an audience?

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Typewriters allow for consistency and legibility in a way that handwriting never could. What other characteristics distinguish the typewriter from technologies that proceeded it? From technologies that succeeded it?

Dijck argues that in the digital realm, “Technologies of self are – even more so than before – technologies of sharing” (p.48). One particularly interesting aspect of this shift is that it seems to have come at the expense of preservation as an objective for creating mediated memories. Djick writes, “Pictures distributed by a camera phone are used to convey a brief message, or merely to show affect. Connecting and getting in touch, rather than reality capturing and memory preservation, are the social meanings transferred onto this type of photography.” It is fleeting. The next time we refresh our Instagram feed, new media will present itself for ready consumption. What social meanings can be mapped onto legacy technologies like the typewriter and fax machine?

//MBC

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