With the rise of the web and people being constantly connected, I’m concerned about the future of really experiencing things.

These days I see so many people constantly tweeting, shooting video, and documenting their experiences, especially outdoor experiences, that I wonder if there’s any authentic experience taking place or if the whole thing exists just as a big photo opportunity. If they couldn’t tweet it or put it on you tube, would most people even do it?

This gets at a deeper philosophical question.

Does the impact of reducing an experience into chunks of 140 characters, or making sure the sound is working and we’re in the frame, take away from the experience. Does it change a wilderness experience into a technology and performance experience that takes place in the wilderness?

Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great that everyone can have a blog and a youtube channel for free, and the access to information is amazing. But with so many people documenting things is there any room left for just doing them?

The big question is does the experience differ when it’s being filmed compared with when it’s not being filmed?


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Spot on Tim. You’re dead right.There’s an absolute difference between just doing stuff and doing it in order to capture or broadcast it in some way (be it photo, film, iphones or whatever). As soon as you start doing both you dilute both.

    I think it depends on how much time you spend diverted from the business in hand by fiddling with cameras etc. A few snaps with a compact camera and a few lines in a notebook of an evening is a great way to remember. This can be converted into something more time consuming when there’s more time to consume!

    I guess it’s all about balance.

  • Patryk

    A person can pick up the “how to do” by reading & studying a book; the practicium can be picked up from watching a video. But until you have experience the frustration of the “doing”, then the feelling of success of the “doing” – you have lost out on the joy of doing. Whether the doing is building and starting a fire from a flint/steel or bow/drill or using a magnifying lens – a person misses out on the doing. Sharpening an axe, learning the proper technique of doing – again you lose out on the thrill.
    Grace/luck onto you and ye’all.

  • Steven Hanton

    Great thinker Tim. Made me think on a number of levels and I’m about to spill my brain out in no particular order…..

    Firstly on blogs and ‘blog news’. There is a question of relevance I think. I read the odd newspaper and thinking about the stuff contained in that even poses questions about what is relevant. Does reducing the recent Haiti disaster to a few pages in a newspaper increase or lessen it’s impact for example? What is the purpose of news? For me, documenting outdoor experiences is a type of news. People reporting outdoor experience via a blog or twitter for me is the same as reading a newspaper, only a newspaper contains about 99% of things which are not relevant to me. If for example I choose to read your blog for example, I am treated to near on 100% of news or information that is of interest to me and may be relevant to my own thinking. Its much more specific. I wouldn’t read someone’s blog who was reporting snooker games for example, but I do enjoy reading the experiences of others in the outdoors. Probably mainly because it may give me ideas and drive to try other things and hense build on my own experiences. I write a blog because I hope to link with people who have similar interests and maybe develop a reciprocal relationship of idea sharing. Its the same reason that I read other’s blogs and magazines or books on adventurous travel for that matter. Books give me ideas and enjoyment in a very similar way that a blog works, if I read the right blog that is.

    I do agree that it is a question of balance. If my sole reason for experience was to document it, I would consider there to be a problem and I too would be worried about the disapperaring of experience for experience sake. Indeed this is probably happening already. In my mind however the documenting is a secondary consideration which takes place as an add on, bonus or after thought. I dont think twice about leaving my camera at home if I’m doing a big mountian day for example because I’d rather cut out the weight and cover more ground; the experience is the primary consideration and the documenting, if it happens at all is an after thought.

    Does the experience differ if its being filmed for example? Again I think its a question of balance. If the sole reason for doing something is to film it, then of course the experience may well be more of fiming rather than what is being filmed. Filming is an extreme example however because by its very nature it requires much involvement. At the other side of the scale, documenting an experience may take the form of just thinking back about an experience you’ve had and writing about it at a later date. This can mean it is possible to have an experience for its own sake, with no interferance from the documenting, as it all takes place at a later date. Some things you may document, some you may not. One up from that, which is what I have been doing with my blog, is simply to take a couple of photos. I would consider the interferance from the documenting to be very minimal, if any at all. For example, I wrote a peice on my blog today about two days mountianeering I have just done. I was away for two days, and climbed all over mountians for 7 hours each day, met some great people and had a very rich experience all round. My documenting consisted of taking about 5 pictures at the summits. I dont think that the experience was in any way interfered with by my photo taking. I then sat down, two days later at the computer and wrote a little about the experience on my blog and posted 4 photos. If anyone reads it and is encouraged to climb one of the hills because of it, or writes to ask me which route I chose and why, great. If no one reads it, great, I had the same experience and I have nice photos for myself which i would be doing anyway. I think the amount of interferance that documenting an experience has is on a continuum of 0-100%.

    There are alot of people documenting things now I agree, but I still only find myself really only regularly looking at three blogs at most, because I find them relevant, inspiring, thought provoking and interesting. I watch next to no television and read next to no general media sources, becuase they are not relevant to me, the handful of blogs I read are relevant, if they werent I wouldn’t read them.

    I do agree that there may be an increasing danger that experiences are overshadowed and interfered with due to some form of documenting, but it depends very much on the individual, the type of experience and the method of documentation. To answer your question personally, ‘If I couldn’t tweet it or put it on you tube, would I still do it’, Hell yes! But to adress the question more generally, are there experiences taking place that are less authentic due to documenting,…. I suspect definately.
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