Friday, March 25, 2005

Can't you find someone more comely to play the role of me?

"How DVD [sic] puts family memories on small screens", The Observer, News section, 20 March 2005

The Observer (UK, the Sunday version of The Guardian) describes how a new service has grown up in London: a company that will take a family's collection of home videos, "lovingly shot videos of birthday parties and beach holidays," and turn them into a "slick piece of film complete with musical soundtrack." What I love is this: "One hour's worth of home video footage will typically produce five minutes of material for the finished montage, with scenes like a beach holiday more likely to make the cut than a school play." Filmic production values, meet family values. An interesting thing that I've been discussing with Jeremy lately has been how bloggers choose what to write about, and what those choices then represent (if representation is the right framework at all) in the context of the life lived and the life re-experienced through the blog. Now, people can leave it to the experts—they know what makes a good memory. Cinema does! (And hasn't this actually been the case for much of this century? See, for instance, Victor Burgin's new book, The Remembered Film, about how film inhabits, and operates within memory). And yes, the service is very expensive. Hollywood is the obvious model here.

The article attributes the legibility of this service to three things: 1. families who are tired of "information overload," not least in their own homes, of their own families; 2. a "national [English] obsession with genealogy and recording life experience for posterity (exemplified in the article by the BBC television series "Who Do You Think You Are?"); and 3. the "vacuum created by the geographical spread of modern families." Upon making the latter point, the article pivots on the thematic axis of technology (as a redress to the aforementioned vacuum) and ends by describing Nokia's new Lifeblog software which "organises photos, videos, text messages and multi-media messages into chronological diary form. Part or all of the diary can be transmitted to the internet in 45 seconds allowing, for example, parents to follow their children's holiday on the other side of the world in close to real time."

In my interviews with bloggers, the themes of memory, recording, and in a certain sense, posterity come up all the time, although these certainly do not explain blogs, if by "explain" we mean: take the measure of what blogs are or what they do. But journalists tend, when trying to explain blogs, to repeat one of three themes: 1. narcissism (as a contemporary social disease, with blogs as *the* symptom or the cause or both), 2. journalism (depending on the attitude and profession of the commentator, blogs are either the "new journalism" or never, never, not on your life will they ever be that), or 3. democracy (e.g. Howard Dean's campaign in the U.S.—blogs as a boon to democracy, a spectacular mode of popular representation). These, at least, are the themes I've noticed again and again. Genealogy is a new one to me, in the sociology of blogs as written by journalists. Have people noticed other explanatory rubrics circulating within popular commentaries on blogs?
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