On physicality / on procrastination:

I should be doing homework, but:

I ran across this earlier today (late, probably): Photojojo Disposable Camera. It’s an interesting concept: you download the app, you get twenty-seven pictures – that you can’t look at, edit, or delete once you’ve taken them – and once you use those twenty-seven pictures, Photojojo prints them for you, and mails them to your house. And then you’ve got twenty-seven prints, just like – as they say – in the old days.

This interests me as an archivist for a number of reasons:

– One, I’m fascinated by the photographs themselves: especially when you’re considering that this app takes something inherently born-digital (a picture from your iPhone) and turns it into something undeniably physical (a print). The reverse happens all the time in archives – digitized photographs, for one – but how often does the born-digital become physical? And what does it say about us – or, the people who download the app, if you don’t want to lump yourself in there – that we’re yearning again for that physicality? That’s why the app was created, anyway. (That’s what San Francisco does: identifies a passing desire, creates something to satisfy that desire, profits.) Will this app exist in five years? One year? Probably not. But even if it is a flash in the pan, there’s this relationship between making the digital physical, and that’s interesting to me.

– Two: Another note on the good old days, here’s what their website says: “Shoot through a whole camera and get 27 prints back just like the good ‘ol days.” I’m interested in equating physicality with the good ‘ol days. I think I’m repeating myself here, but: how does Instagram feel about this? (Who cares, really.) Instagram brands itself as a “fast, beautiful, and fun way to share your life with friends and family,” while this app – in the spirit of the good ‘ol days – takes ten days to deliver the final product. Instagram takes ten seconds. (I have no opinion either way. I don’t know why I do a lot of things on the Internet, and I don’t know why I use Instagram. Because everyone else does, I think. It’s not a convenience factor for me. I don’t use it because I’m looking for the most efficient way to quickly share photographs. But I bet some do.)

– Three: This app is playing – even if the creators don’t recognize it, though I think they do – with the concept of permanency. You get twenty-seven shots, and you can’t see any of them before they’re printed. Can’t see ’em to make sure they’re good, can’t see ’em to make sure they turned out like you anticipated, can’t see ’em to make sure your thumb wasn’t covering the lens. Which is quirky, but also speaks to the permanency of the physical, and the malleable reality of the digital world. Actually: maybe the digital world isn’t all that malleable – Facebook stores unpublished posts, deleted Tweets still exist, and we know that – hopefully. Still, and at the very least, the illusion of malleability exists: I take a photo, I don’t like it, I delete it. I write a Facebook post, I notice an error, I edit it. Most of us have the tools and the power to create and share a record that we approve of – even in very professional settings: at the Historical Society, I can delete any email I want, even though I work for a state Board, and the records created by that state Board are to be collected and preserved.

This isn’t to say, either, that the ability to edit didn’t exist in the physical world. Drafts go unseen, negatives are discarded. But, I do think it’s a lot easier now to mold our own records – as the creator of those records. Right?

All this is to say: it’s interesting to me that this company is attempting to take that away. (Reading their frequently asked questions is interesting, too: one question says Can I really not look at my photos? and the answer reads No, you cannot. Stop asking.)

Four: It all relates, somehow, to our authority as a record creator, and our authority as those who collect, doesn’t it? Even concerning something as inconsequential as an iPhone app. This isn’t a fight between the digital and the physical. But, as a first-year student, sometimes I think the two worlds – the physical world of archives and the digital world of archives – operate on different planes (intentionally, in many cases). You have a group of archivists who embrace the electronic and the born-digital enthusiastically (you have a group, too, that does it because they have to, and they’re not happy about it), and you have a group that denies the importance of these digital records, don’t you? (You do. It comes up in class, I swear.)

But what happens when the two intersect in ways like this?

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