Capturing the Experience

Last night I had dinner with a friend who was talking about looking around at the Sonic Youth concert at the Capitol Hill Block party last week and being saddened to realize that she was standing in a sea of phone cameras pointed at the stage. Then today, this article came out in the New York Times. The author, Michael Kimmelman, wonders about our modern tendancy to sprint through museums snapping pictures of only the "important" works housed in them, without ever pausing to actually look at the art.

Cameras replaced sketching by the last century; convenience trumped engagement, the viewfinder afforded emotional distance and many people no longer felt the same urgency to look. It became possible to imagine that because a reproduction of an image was safely squirreled away in a camera or cell phone, or because it was eternally available on the Web, dawdling before an original was a waste of time, especially with so much ground to cover.

Photo by Valerio Mezzanotti for The New York Times

Kimmelman's article incited this interesting blog post on the Brooklyn Museum's blog called "Does tech engage or distract?" From the comments on that post:

I’ve certainly noticed much more cell phone cameras at Member previews and at First Saturdays. Though it doesn’t seem to be harming anyone, it does seem indicative of a larger trend: wanting to document that you’re experiencing something rather than just experiencing it.

So I'm wondering, young readers, what you think. Teenagers have a (probably earned) reputation as technology addicts. Do you feel the need to record, digitize, and disseminate everything you experience? Do you think that putting your camera lense between you and a work of art (whether it's Sonic Youth or the Mona Lisa) enhances or detracts from your engagement with the piece? Do you worry that your addiction to showing you've done something interferes with actually doing it?

- Holly A.

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