The camera that captures your entire life

I spy: The camera comes with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and a USB so you can view photos on your phone.

Are we obsessed with taking pictures? This week, Google announced the release of its newest creation, Clips: an automatic camera which picks up on motion to capture photos.

“Today everything exists to end in a photograph.”

Susan Sontag said these words in 1977. What would she think in 2017?

Google unveiled its Clips camera on Wednesday. The device uses artificial intelligence to “learn” who is important to you and decide when to take photos or record short videos. All you have to do is turn it on.

The company is aiming its marketing at parents, saying that Clips will allow them to capture unique family moments.

Not everyone is convinced this is a good idea: The Independent reported yesterday on “Google’s creepy camera.”

The number of photos we take is increasing. The New York Times estimates that 300 billion pictures were taken in 2010 and that this number will grow to 1.3 trillion by the end of this year.

Although we take more photos than ever, we do not spend longer looking at them. “The sheer volume and lack of organisation of digital photos for personal memories discourages many people from accessing and reminiscing about them,” said Dr Linda Henkel from Fairfield University in 2015.

Taking photos used to require much more effort than today’s digital images. Older pictures had a “real atmosphere and importance”, according to The Guardian’s Tim Lott. Google’s latest invention requires no effort at all. Will we care about the photos it takes?

What’s more, psychologist Maryanne Garry from Victoria University of Wellington thinks that our obsession with photography means that we cannot just live “in the moment”.

Google’s new camera will capture you and your loved ones at your most natural. Perhaps the answer is not to take fewer photos, but to work on more cameras like Clips which take photos automatically.

Some argue that the purpose of photography has changed in the 21st century digital age: it is no longer about making memories. Many people use photos to communicate on social media as well as to form their own sense of identity, according to BBC Future.

While many love to look at photos of happy occasions, others prefer to leave the past in the past. Should we all be taking fewer photos?

Snap happy

“We have ruined photography,” argue some. We take so many pictures that they become meaningless. What’s more, the art of photography has been undermined by our mindless snapping. This new camera will just add to the excess of photos already in the world. We should focus on quality, not quantity.

“We live in the golden age of photography,” reply others. We are so lucky to be able to capture all the precious moments in our lives, meaning we can revisit them whenever we want. What’s more, digital photos allow us to share what we are doing with our friends and to see what they are up to as well.

You Decide

  1. Do we take too many pictures?
  2. What’s the point of a photo?

Activities

  1. You work for Google and want to gather some thoughts on the camera from customers. Interview your partner, who has bought one. Do they like it? Do they have any concerns? What could be improved? You have 3 minutes for the interview. Swap roles when you have finished.
  2. Choose some of your favourite photos from the past year and make a scrapbook. It can be as long or as short as you like — all it needs to have is a range of pictures with some captions. Reflect on the experience once you have done it. Did you enjoy making it? Are you glad you did it or was it a waste of time? How is it different to having all your photos digitally?

Some People Say...

“A good snapshot keeps a moment from running away.”

Eudora Welty, American novelist

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
Clips will cost £190/$249. Designed to sit discretely in the owner’s home, it is only two inches in diameter. Google were armed and prepared against those who cited security fears about having a camera constantly watching: Clips does not synchronise with any other device and all the information on it is encrypted.
What do we not know?
We do not yet know how parents will react to the idea. Whilst some may enjoy the opportunity to capture pictures of their children which would otherwise be missed, others may agree with New Statesman’s Amelia Tait and argue that missing a photo opportunity is not worth “inviting a creep into your home”.

Word Watch

Susan Sontag
An American writer, activist and film-maker whose book On Photography discussed her views on the role of photography in capitalist societies.
Taking photos
Research by Linda Henkel showed that taking pictures impairs our ability to remember an event. More people are relying on technology to remember things for them, meaning that they tune out from the real experience and focus instead on capturing the perfect shot.
Much more effort
The first photo was taken in 1826 by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce. It took 8 hours for it to appear, after the photographer had to go through a complicated process of developing the image.
Digital age
The digital age began somewhere between the 1950s and 1970s. The term refers to the change from analogue technology to much faster digital technology which allows the easy and rapid transfer of information.

Subjects

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