Going Live vs Doing Life

My daughter once performed at a large choral event where she sung a solo piece. It was the first time she had performed in front of a sizable audience and the first time I had any idea that she had real singing talent. As a father, it was a beautiful thing to see, and I was very proud of her.

Naturally, as a proud dad I was there with my video camcorder in hand and taped the entire performance. The event was over two evenings so I also went back the next night and taped it again, then took the two pieces of footage, dumped them into Sony Vegas and made a two-camera montage of the performance. It’s still on YouTube if you want a look.

Although I was present to see her perform twice, my strongest memory of that event is the video that documents it. I do recall sitting in the hall with the other people and thinking how awesome she sounded live, but what I see on the video has, over time, become the more pervasive memory.

Likewise, back in 2004 we did a 3 week trip through Central Australia with about 25 of my 4WD club friends. It was an amazing trip, taking detours into some of the most remote and beautiful country in Australia. We ventured up the Oodnadatta Track, swam in thermal pools, visited the remote East MacDonnell Ranges and took the back roads to Kings Canyon and Uluru. We had mechanical issues, lots of laughs and a great time. When we came back, I collected the hours of video footage and thousands of photos and produced a short video of the trip to show at a club meeting. Again, you can find that video on YouTube.

Just like the 4 minute video of Kate singing, the 9 minutes of video footage from our Central Australia Outback experience has come to be my primary recollection of the 21 day trip. I occasionally have to stop and remind myself that there was a lot more to that trip than just those 9 minutes.

While I totally understand the need to document our experiences with video and photographs and other media, I think we need to be aware that life still needs to be lived and not just experienced through a camera viewfinder. It’s a balancing act, because I know I have footage of events and experiences that I will want to look back on in years to come and be very glad I captured them. However, I’ve also become very aware that even as I capture events for posterity, I don’t lose sight of the actual experience of living the moment in which they occur.

I started pondering this as I watched the steady stream of Twitter messages coming out of NECC. As you would expect, the tweets are flowing fast and furious with so many edu-Twitterers all in one place. Twitter is an incredible networking tool for groups, and you can see it being used to connect, communicate and coordinate. Whether it is to arrange a place to meet for coffee, notify the start of a presentation or comment on what’s being said in a meeting, Twitter is an awesomely useful tool. As I read them, I just imagine that many these tweet messages are being created on mobile devices and I’m getting this mental picture of people wandering about with their cellphones in hand furiously tapping away on hard-to-use keyboards to create this flood of tweets to the outside world.

I could be completely wrong, and maybe some of the Twitterers will leave a comment about how they deal with the whole mobile tweeting thing, but I always find that in order to tweet about what I’m doing I have to mentally stop doing it. To me, it’s more than just multitasking, it’s about mental timeslicing and taking your attention off the here-and-now of what’s actually taking place around you in order to tell the Twitterverse about what’s going on around you. This is not meant to be a criticism, and I’m glad that people do it so that others who wish they were there can get an insight into what’s going on, but I hope that folks find the balancing point between actually living the event and spending all their energy helping the event “go live”.

I know that multitasking is an important skill, but sometimes I wonder if we push it too far and try to engage with (or create) so many sources of information that we miss some of the richness of the actual experience itself? Maybe we need to relearn how to just “be” in the moment and let that moment flow over us so that our experience of an event will be the pervasive memory and the digital documentation of the event will simply be a nice reminder later. How do we find that balance between capturing and sharing a moment and actually living it?

Image: ‘Tribute To Guitarist Pat Martino – Scan+03+07

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CC BY-SA 4.0 Going Live vs Doing Life by Chris Betcher is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

8 Replies to “Going Live vs Doing Life”

  1. sweet post. I am with you on this. I have had some guilty moments when I am the proud parent WITHOUT the video camera because that is just how I am. I am totally over the guilt now, though. I try to document what I can, when I want to. Will I miss and forget some things? Sure. But OH WELL. Everything, even videos on youtube (as good an option as that is for now, and it is a great one) is just stuff at some point. Will those who come after us know to find our videos on youtube? I have in my closet a box filled with some old, old home movies. I don’t even know what format they are. Someday I hope to have them digitized. Anyway, I digress.

    About the NECC tweets….also know what you are saying here. It is great to be able to get a peek into the learning and sharing that is going on there. I am very grateful to people who are sharing since I can not be there. But, after watching a ustream of a group of folks having dinner the other night I was a bit disillusioned. My thoughts were the same as yours in this post…I felt like a voyeur, I felt silly watching them eat. I think that the idea (if I may try to imaging what they were thinking) was, hey, this is a tech conference…let’s digitize and share every bit of it, but I think that some parts of it (like dinner at a restaurant) are better being enjoyed among those (lucky ones) who are there. Notes from the sessions are what I would most like to see shared on twitter and blogs, as well as maybe a few choice photos, videos, etc.

  2. Chris, I’m not at NECC, (although I wish I was there). I’ve only attended NECC in person once, in 2001 when it was in Chicago. Every year however, I do my best to keep track of what happens at the conference by reading blogs, going the the NECC website and downloading presentations. After NECC, I can see the impact of the knowledge and the sharing by the articles and blog posts that are written by those who attended. Last year, it was all about Second Life. This year, Twitter has taken over. I follow the tweets and I feel like I’m there – but I am beginning to completely understand what you are saying. It’s difficult to really soak it all in, when there is so much digital conversation going on. Yesterday morning, I was trying to see what was going on at EDC, and Darren Draper made the most interesting tweet:
    “ddraper One thing to remember, NECCers: You can either be a part of the experience or record the experience. It’s very difficult to do both well. 08:12 AM June 28, 2008 from twhirl”
    Wow, I thought….it must be a real challenge for those who are there to keep us who are not there present (virtually) – although I’m sure that is not the only intent of all of the video streams, live blogging, and fervent tweeting (and/or plurking) – for us Non-NECCers. I look forward to trying to keep up as much as I can, and I appreciate so much the energy, passion and enthusiasm of those educators who have gathered at NECC this year. Have a great time! (Maybe you should all hope for whales and birds this week.)

  3. Chris,

    I completely identify with this, having experienced it many times myself. I’ve owned a Sony camcorder of one kind or another since 1987. I have to remind myself to break it out once in a while, or I would have no video memories at all. Years ago I realized that all of my video recording (and to a lesser extent still photography) was causing me to miss out on the actual event. So many times I don’t even bother, preferring to be involved as an actual spectator at the event rather than simply a recorder.

    I still don’t have any footage of my 6 y/o daughter playing her first year of t-ball this summer. I’m going to have to try to make a video at least once. But you are so right. You miss out when you are recording.

    The same is true of twitter. I saw the same thing at SXSW this spring. Everyone busily typing away, while I jotted a few notes in a notebook. I think I probably had the richer experience. I even recently referred back to a couple of audio podcasts, when reviewing my notes. I’m not good enough at twitter to know how to go back three months to see what I posted then.

    As to your question of balance, I think you have to make a conscious effort to be balanced. In my case, I have to remember to make at least some archive, recording or other documentation since I much prefer to enjoy the event itself. On the other extreme, if you are missing everything, I think you need to realize when it is happening and just put the camera down. This is not a hard thing for me to do when I look at the hours of unedited video footage I have already recorded and the scores of unpublished photographs already living on my hard drive.

    Great observations, Chris!

  4. I think your coming at something that relates to teaching, but from another angle: we’re pressed to give more and more reporting of activities and students’ performance, via websites and on-line grade books, and so on. Doing so is clearly useful, but it also takes away from focusing on students’ work. Testing also asks us to report out from the classroom, but prepping for tests and taking them, while having a certain value, detracts from the best kind of learning.

    What’s the trick to balancing such pushme-pullme conflicts?

  5. I agree with you totally. Sometimes I get so caught up in a moment, that I forget to take a picture, and I am not a twitterholic. I joined twitter because I want to see whats going on in the world of technology. But I don’t really “do” twitter, because I try as much as I can to enjoy my days and bask in the moments….for me, technology is great, but secondary. The enjoyment of life is always first.

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