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