Meta Maiden… part two

25 Jul

A 'real' picture of Maiden front-man Bruce Dickinson

In August of 2000 I travelled with my wife to Glasgow’s City Centre music festival, ‘Glasgow Green‘. I have many memories of that day… the afternoon was glorious sunshine while the evening was wet and foggy! I was gutted (and grumpy…) that we arrived too late to see a band whose name I can’t even remember now… and the highlight was seeing Beck, for the second time that year, put on a great show. I took with me my newly purchased Fuji 3.4 mega pixel digital camera (check me out!). I can clearly recall feeling quite nervous and vulnerable as, in 2000, the glow of the little backlit screen that we take so much for granted in 2011, was drawing attention to an unusual and expensive device. Many bands and palls were captured on that device that day… stills and video..!

Like I said, many ‘crystal clear’ memories of the day. None quite so vivid however than the memory of accidentally deleting all of those images, the very next day, while demonstrating the ease of use to my dad! Hmm…

I started off my last blog post with the news that within two hours of the concert I was at finishing there were already two clips of the show on YouTube… within 24hours there were almost 60.

On Wednesday (20 July, 2011) I was at an Iron Maiden gig in Glasgow. I last saw them in the same venue in 2006. While the collection of this data is hardly scientific, it’s useful in that, arguably, they are ‘like-for-like’ concerts five years apart (same band, same venue, most probably a large overlap in fans attending with a few new fans too young to attend five years ago…) and therefore comparable and reasonable data upon which to make comparisons and assumptions.

As the gig kicked off, the second thing I noticed (after the huge screens.. grrr) was how many cameras and camera phones were being pointed stage wards. The increase I would roughly approximate as ten-fold. Every fourth or fifth person would occasionally hold up an image capturing device of some description to document, in stills or in video, the ‘moment’.

Is it just me or …? Using a camera at a gig is challenging operation. Keeping the device steady, avoiding heads in the foreground, checking the battery level… oh, and trying to watch the band through the two inch screen. The irony is that all of the ‘moments’ that are captured during ‘live’ experiences, such as this, are the ones that are not actually ‘experienced’..!

A picture of a picture! One of the big screens at Maiden's show!

I understand that what’s captured is ‘part’ of the ‘thing’ we experienced and so of course, for many reasons, it ‘is’ valid. BUT, there is no doubt that for those few minutes or even seconds, we are actually being taken ‘out of’ the ‘moment’ and into a different experience altogether.

I think on some level, anyone who has tried to use a camera in these, or similar circumstances, understands that it’s awkward but we put up with it because… well, all sorts of varied and personal reasons. Amongst them, I assume, is the ‘evidence‘ factor: “I was at the gig, here is my evidence.”

So we endure the inconvenience (probably without even considering it), because the outcome has value to us. (Had someone tasked us with filming the whole show then I’m sure we would feel differently and less enamoured by the process.)

So, what do we take from this… that more people are using digital cameras and YouTube than five years ago? Well, kind of, but presumably we all knew that already. The fact that within 24hours there were as many clips of the 2011 show as had accumulated over the past five years of the 2006 show is interesting, but again, not too surprising given that YouTube only came into existence in 2005. However, the immediacy of the first two uploads less than an hour of the band being off stage ‘is’ interesting to me. Presumably uploading to YouTube at the earliest opportunity was in their heads as they were filming.

With some of the games I’ve set up I’ve tried to encourage people to share the experience in ‘real time’. What came out of the ‘Space Hop‘ experience was that while it was an interesting idea to people, it wasn’t ‘convenient’ enough… again it comes down to being taken out of the moment. There is another tangent here to be explored in my next post and it is ‘Twitter‘… the communication tool of choice for those ‘in the moment’…

How many camera/phones can you see..?

However… back to the cameras… if there is a future market for this kind of ‘immediate feedback’ of images and video and sharing the story in ‘real time’ how can it be optimised so that the author remains in the moment, not missing out on the experience. I think applications like Instagram have shown that there are creative solutions to sharing in an immediate and engaging way. And it’s convenient..!  Which in this case means it does a very good job of being simple enough so as ‘not’ to detract from what you are ‘meant’ to be doing and not taking you ‘out of the moment’…

Another avenue I’m interested in exploring is ‘GoPro video cameras’ that you can mount on your person and preset it to automatically capture images or video and even time-lapse. Maybe something like GoPro that could automatically upload images or time-lapse on-the-fly without any intervention would be very cool!

It’s fun to share this stuff. I’m grateful to @sirchutney for the use of images taken at the Newcastle gig and I enjoyed viewing his Flickr stream of the night as well as the video that he put together. But is capturing all of this video and still images diminishing the experience of being there? We tend to think of them as ‘memories captured’ never to be lost… but are they really helping us or are we relying on them to the point that our memories are getting lazy?

Memories are generated by many senses, not just by sight and sound… are we placing too much emphasis on the visual at the expense of the smells, the dynamics, the feelings..? Are we sacrificing the moment in order to have a ‘copy’ of it?

While I did lose a lot of images and video from Glasgow Green I still have pretty clear memories of the day. Despite not having any images of that day (from my perspective at least…) I can’t say that I’m any worse off as a result (and yet I have more than 16,000 photos on my laptop that span just over two years…).

What do you think… comment please or tweet me @onthesuperfly

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2 Responses to “Meta Maiden… part two”

  1. Rob July 25, 2011 at 8:19 pm #

    I can see where you’re coming from about experiencing the moment without trying to record every single thing. However, as you can see from my 1986 Metallica photos, it’ll always happen, the technology has just become smaller and more compact.

    Metallica - Newcastle Mayfair Sept 19 1986 1

    To get these photos I had to stick a 35mm camera down my underpants. My mate took his tape recorder he used to use to load games into his ZX Spectrum, so he could bootleg the gig.

    I did try to use a camera at a Prodigy gig but the light show just dazzled it to death. Also, when I went to see Municipal Waste I was just happy to set out alive: forget about taking photos!

    Great blog by the way!!

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  1. Is ‘anyone’ watching..? | Jon Gill - August 15, 2012

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