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Emotional Archives: Online Photo Sharing and the Cultivation of the Self Author: Daniel Palmer [ show biography ] DOI: 10.1080/17540763.2010.499623 Published in: Photographies, Volume 3, Issue 2 September 2010 , pages 155 - 171 Publication Frequency: 2 issues per year Download PDF (~979 KB)

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Articles To cite this Article: Palmer, Daniel 'Emotional Archives: Online Photo Sharing and the Cultivation of the Self', Photographies, 3:2, 155 - 171

Abstract This paper focuses on the archiving of emotion in online photo sharing, and specifically on biography sites in which we are encouraged to package our lives as a succession of dramatic moments. It considers how social software functions to animate memory and history in ways that extend photography's role as a medium through which individuals confirm and explore their own identity. The paper focuses on thisMoment (www.thismoment.com), which innovates certain key features of popular photo archives such as Flickr and Nokia Lifeblog. On this site, visual “moments” are given an emotional classification (“This moment made me feel … happy/proud/etc”). Perhaps more importantly, a dynamic visual timeline enables users to supplement their own photographic memories with fragments from the mass media, thereby aiding memorialization and personalizing history. Such practices inevitably arrive in the context of contemporary developments in neo-liberalism, and despite significant continuities demand a rethinking of dominant theories of popular photography.

Introduction In only a few years, the networked snapshot has grown to be a prominent feature of the Internet. As Web 2.0 has become a privileged place for social networking, the exhibition and distribution of personal photographs has quickly followed - with online photo sharing on popular sites such as Flickr now part of everyday life for a generation schooled in virtual self-actualization. Personal image making itself has been fuelled by the new ubiquity of digital cameras, exemplified by camera phone technology. The nature of these digital snapshots has already attracted considerable attention. For instance, there is widespread agreement among researchers that such images are both more intimate and mundane than earlier forms of personal photography (Gye;

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Murray). Indeed, the immediacy of photo sharing has been compared to sharing experience itself (Federman 4). One result is that the Internet has provided a space for an ever-accumulating archive of personal visual experience, memory and emotion. This paper focuses on the archiving of such feeling in photo-biography or diary sites, in which users are encouraged to package their lives as a succession of dramatic emotional moments. These sites deploy elements of broader social networking sites such as Facebook to specifically extend photography's role as a medium through which individuals confirm and explore their own identity, while evoking memory and history in new ways. In particular, this paper explores the recently launched site “thisMoment”, which, I will argue, innovates key features of more popular archives such as Flickr. While drawing out these features, I am interested in how discourses of consumer empowerment embedded in a neo-liberal political agenda are configured within commercial software. The crucial process of individualization, as Zygmunt Bauman and others have argued, “consists of transforming human 'identity' from a 'given' into a 'task'” (Bauman 31). That is, contemporary capitalism requires that we must be willing to embrace continual transformation as an essential condition of contemporary subjectivity. Subsequently, life is framed as a series of events, and “self-realization” becomes a driving force for promoting consumption. As Brian Holmes has recently put it, despite the promotion of self-reflexivity in the networked entertainment environment of Web 2.0, “the core value up for sale is the working consumer, and his or her capacity for self-delusion and the money s/he will earn and spend” (Holmes). As I will show, precisely this logic may be identified in the rhetoric and form of online photo-sharing sites. At least since Kodak commodified the convention of the staged smile in the late nineteenth century, personal photography has been animated by viewers as an emotional event in the service of remembrance. Although the role of photography as memory is contested, the importance of family photographs as a particular kind of storytelling as memory is well established within photography theory. This is particularly the case for the most archetypal of twentieth-century presentation formats, the family photo album. The album is designed to present a narrative that may be presented within the family group. The same can be said of the twentieth-century format of the domestic family slide show, which has now been reconfigured in a somewhat less theatrical fashion on the computer display screen or television monitor. Photography critics have long been alert to the ideological function of such stories, and artists such as Jo Spence have actively reframed their dominant uses. The fact remains that while seeming to merely record actual moments in family history, family albums typically perpetuate myths of coherence and togetherness by favouring happy moments. As such, they are implicated in the naturalization and reproduction of patriarchal structures of the family and leisure (see Bourdieu; Sontag; Hirsch).1 Notions of “family” are changing. Nevertheless, and importantly for the argument I wish to develop here, family albums still typically restrict their focus to the immediate personal history and associated events such as holidays and weddings. That is, they present a “vision of the family as a sealed unit, impervious to public events” (Edwards 123). Indeed, in my own family's set of chronologically arranged photo albums, an exception to this vision proves the rule. In volume 7, marked “1981-2”, amidst the usual array of pictures of middle-class domestic life - birthdays, holidays, and Christmases are a page of three blurry images taken from the TV screen. For reasons that remain unclear, my father, a British migrant to Australia, made a series of pictures of Princess Diana's wedding to Prince Charles as it was being broadcast live into our living room (see figures 1 and 2). These photos are a rather unusual interruption of an international event into our family albums, even as that event remains entirely faithful to its overarching purpose of capturing and celebrating key moments of domestic life. 13/02/2011 01:56 p.m.


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A “public” event has been hijacked from the televisual flow to become part of my family's personal memory and its narrative of identity. Viewing the pictures today suggests that this act provided my father with an opportunity to renew his ties to the “mother country”. As Annette Kuhn has observed of such “memory texts”, “private and public turn out in practice less readily separable than conventional wisdom would have us believe” (Kuhn 4).

FIGURE 1. Michael Palmer, Wedding of Charles, Prince of Wales, and Lady Diana Spencer, 29 July 1981, as photographed by my father on TV, in our family album,

1981. FIGURE 2. Michael Palmer, Wedding of Charles, Prince of Wales, and Lady Diana Spencer, 29 July 1981, as photographed by my father on TV, in our family album, 1981. Despite significant continuities, current changes to the ways in which we capture, store and disseminate photographs - and the emergence of online photo-sharing platforms in particular - demand a rethinking of dominant theories of personal photography. As Daniel Rubinstein and Katrina Sluis have outlined, the photographs of millions of individuals are now contained within online databases connected to each other by a hyperlink, tag, or search term (18). As usual, the uses that people make of technologies cannot be known in advance. Flickr, for instance, emerged when its

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originators were developing a multiplayer game; as the photo-sharing feature of their project started attracting attention, they concentrated on what became Flickr instead. In the short time since it started operating in 2004, Flickr has attracted millions of users and now hosts more than 3 billion images, growing at a rate of several thousand uploads per minute. As Susan Murray describes enthusiastically: Flickr has become a collaborative experience: a shared display of memory, taste, history, signifiers of identity, collection, daily life and judgement through which amateur and professional photographers collectively articulate a novel, digitized (and decentralized) aesthetics of the everyday. (149) Indeed, Flickr is one of the most active online social networks, and a widely observed aspect of its success is the fact that users can annotate their pictures, adding captions within the frame, as well as post comments below other users' photos. Users can also append “tags”, adjectives that describe a photo's category (such as “poodle”, “tattoo”, or “cute”). Thus a verbal textuality accompanies the online posting of the pictures, and these become “essential elements of participation in the social aspects of photo sharing” (Rubinstein and Sluis 18).2 Flickr describes itself as an “amazing photographic community, with sharing at its heart”.3 And indeed, a bewildering array of interest groups is evidence enough of this fact. It also means that the conventional ordering of individual photo collections is opened up to a database logic of key words and search terms. As Rubinstein and Sluis insist, “tagging subverts any attempt to impose narrative order on the snapshot collection” (18). Since 2003, phone cameras have been outselling digital cameras in the US market (and now probably in many other countries as well). Nokia, a mobile phone company, is today's largest manufacturer of cameras. The use of camera phones as a platform for digital photography is a particularly socialized and normalized in young people's daily life, with all its well-publicized hazards. Camera phones afford users the ability to document, re-present, perform and share the intimacies of the everyday. Even as their digital copies might haunt the networks long after they were taken, the images produced by camera phones are typically experienced as ephemeral artefacts, unlike analogue photographs that are usually meant to be kept. Indeed, amateur digital photography in general, with its ritualized modes of production, on-screen display and near-instantaneous sharing, may increasingly be considered in terms of an “economy of presence” (Gye 285). Like Polaroid pictures, digital cameras draw on experiential immediacy for their impact. Likewise, writing of digital photography in her book Mediated Memories in the Digital Age, media theorist Jos van Dijck refers to “new performative rituals” and “a bias towards the communicable and the disposable, at the expense of permanence and durability” (110-11). The instantaneous feedback and sharing of everyday experience is quite clearly at odds with the traditional function of personal photography, around preserving memories of meaningful events, echoes of which can still be heard in such recent Kodak advertising slogans as “enjoy your memories” (from 2005). However, at the same time as privileging the everyday and the transient, a technology like the camera phone can also become a “life recorder”, generating a fragmented archive of a personal trajectory or viewpoint on the world. The documentation of one's immediate surroundings goes along with “life-caching” and the desire to build individual and collective identity in the form of personal and group memory. Moreover, in the digital world, “shared experience almost by definition implies distributed storage” (van Dijck 116). A key difference with digital archiving practices compared to their analogue antecedents is that the images are publicly accessible (and even revisable) by others 13/02/2011 01:56 p.m.


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in their exhibition and sharing. Sites like Flickr represent a fundamental shift in photography's ontological orientation, as Murray argues: Instead of evoking loss, preservation, and death, users and viewers are encouraged to establish a connection with the image that is simultaneously fleeting and a building block of a biographical or social narrative. (161) Thus the photograph's traditional role is simultaneously undermined and reinforced. Personal photography has always functioned as a technology of memory, lending “shape to personal stories and truth claims … producing both memory and forgetting” (Sturken 178). Today, however, photography seems unable “to hold onto time even as it provides avenues for nostalgia and memory” (Murray 161). As memory becomes ever more overtly mediated and shared by digital media, the personal archive becomes newly fluid.

thisMoment.com Beyond Flickr, a variety of free online software is now available to help organize and “publish” our personal image worlds for various networked others to engage with friends, family and the public (depending on the selected “privacy settings”).4 The site I want to focus on here, thisMoment - which launched in June 2009 after several months of beta testing - is notable for consciously seeking to reintroduce meaning and order into one's image life. Indeed, thisMoment's rather modest web header “save and share the moments of your life” belies its aspiration to organize the chaos of both personal and media memories via a specially designed visual timeline. As the marketing text states more boldly, the site moves beyond photo sharing; instead, it “leverages everything you already do online . . . and puts it towards a higher purpose: that of saving and sharing the Moments of your life.” The “moment maker” connects with and can draw on images and video posted to existing Web services - including Facebook, Flickr, Picasa and YouTube. The “higher purpose” happens in the “moment theatre”, where users create a “moment flow”. Basically an enhanced slide-show, this timeline is designed to become “a digital reflection of your life, you over time”. Indeed, the animated visual timeline lies at the core of thisMoment, with one's past on the left and future on the right. Like the “photostream” on Flickr, images act as an active centre of motion, rather than fixed objects. ThisMoment thus seeks to remediate personal photography in terms of individual self-realization. While individual identity and self-development is obviously crucial to the overall design logic of thisMoment, it is worthwhile considering how the site updates and transforms photography's close association with the idea of “the moment” for the digital age. Quite apart from Henri Cartier-Bresson's well-known compositional method of the “decisive moment”, photography is popularly associated with capturing the moment for posterity. Such a formulation is heavily indebted to Kodak, the company that effectively defined amateur photography at the end of the nineteenth century. Through advertisements, manuals and promotional literature, Kodak successfully promoted amateur photography as a practice centred on capturing “special moments of domestic life” (Murray 152). For instance, a global campaign advertisement from 1913 offered prizes for the “Kodak Happy Moment”, the best pictures from your summer holidays. Consolidated via a barrage of other advertising campaigns, the tag line “Kodak moment” has since become a common expression to refer to any moment worth

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remembering as a recorded image. In effect, in the process of valuing the passing moment with the aim of selling cameras and, more importantly, film, Kodak succeeded in commodifying the passing of time itself. We see a parallel move in a recent campaign for a major credit card company, so-called “MasterCard Moments”. Defined as “priceless experiences”, these moments are sold in advertising campaigns through photographs of adventure and romance. The irony of the phrase “priceless moment” cannot be lost in a campaign devised explicitly to encourage credit-fuelled hedonism, in which the real cost is, precisely, detached from the moment of purchase. The company's website (www.mastercardmoments.com) nevertheless maintains that it has our existential happiness at heart, wishing to ensure “that every moment you experience is fulfilling and eminently unforgettable”. The notion of the unforgettable moment is obviously central to thisMoment, in which a moment is defined on the site as “any experience that has significance or meaning to you”. As the capitalization of the letter M in the name thisMoment implies, the company aims to convey a transcendent quality to these moments that define us. Above all, perhaps, thisMoment normalizes a socio-technical project of self-realization for a generation trained in CV building. That is, thisMoment encourages the self-promotion of both our professional achievements and personal hobbies, as well as life-changing experiences. These “moments” may be photographic or comprised of any other digital media. In this sense, and in its emphasis on emotional moments, thisMoment offers a contrast to the more dominant everyday aesthetic found on photo-sharing sites. As Murray describes this more common style, “photography has become less about the special or rarefied moments of domestic/family living (for such things as holidays, gatherings, baby photos) and more about an immediate, rather fleeting display of one's discovery of the small and mundane (such as bottles, cupcakes, trees, debris, and architectural elements) (151). Murray is undoubtedly correct to suggest that the immediacy of such digital photo sharing signals “a definitive shift in our temporal relationship with the everyday image” (151). By contrast, however, thisMoment can be read as one of a variety of efforts to resuscitate, salvage or simulate a more conventional notion of photography as a container for memory, even as it blurs the difference between photography, video and other media. On the surface, the timeline at the core of thisMoment is a largely conventional spatial structuring device, implying a typical narrative of progression. It shares the idea of organizing images chronologically with the equally family-oriented Nokia Lifeblog (Gye 283), which renders the diary searchable via its contents and via automatically and manually created metadata (a 2006 press release referred to the Nokia site as “the photo diary that writes itself ”).5 Such a sentiment can be read in light of earlier links between the acquisitive nature of the photographic medium and chronological evolution. As Pierre Bourdieu writes in Photography: A Middle-brow Art, chronological ordering is fundamental to the illusion of coherence found in family albums, since “the group sees a factor of unification in the monuments of its past unity or … draws confirmation of its present unity from its past” (30). Thus the narrative logic of the photo album persists in thisMoment as a model for personal memory and social sharing. Likewise, just as a traditional photo album is designed to be viewed by others, the images published online are meant to be watched and commented upon by family, friends and strangers; they are not mere archives or databases to be consulted. Certainly the possibility of remote strangers looking at our private pictures is quite new, but as Patricia Holland has observed, the photo album has long functioned to “translate private meanings into a more public realm” (121). ThisMoment, however, also possesses some novel characteristics that distinguish it from other online efforts to organize our photographic histories. In the following part of my argument, I will elaborate on the three more unique aspects of thisMoment: firstly, that its “dynamic,

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visual timeline” is emotionally coded; secondly, that it directs us to delve backwards into our analogue archives and to the future hopes and dreams; and finally - perhaps most importantly - that users are encouraged to introduce public forms of imagery such as news media and stock imagery into their photo-biography.

Coding and commodifying emotion The practice of adding notes to images on Flickr has been widely commented on (Jackson; Murray; Rubinstein and Sluis). But in the logic of thisMoment, each visual moment is not only identified and itemized but must also be given an emotional value. This happens according to a simple formula of “This moment made me feel … proud/happy/sad”, and so on. Thus, a “first car accident” made Zachary Horn feel “surprised/sad/angry” while “coffee and cake” made “JonnyHG” feel “happy” (see figures 3 and 4). Indeed, a tick box in the beta mode of the site initially restricted users to selecting from a limited range of emotions, but this has since been modified to become an open-ended response. In this way, like a rating system, thisMoment asks us to formalize and organize our emotional responses to events as we share them with others. One way of thinking about its time capsules is that they are attempting to offer a visual interface to emotion, to “moments that are meaningful and enduring”, as the promotion suggests. Implicitly, we are asked to evaluate and classify our experiences by giving them an emotional classification. And unlike traditional photo albums, in which we know that what is omitted is as significant as what is included (the funerals, divorces, and so on), thisMoment welcomes the sharing of less positive events and emotions. From the evidence, however, it appears that only minor personal crises are documented and shared (accidents, the death of a pet, and so on). A certain type of embarrassing or painful moment can be framed as “character building” in retrospect. As one would expect from a commercial service, the marketing emphasis focuses on fun and seamlessness - prerequisites for the commercial imperative of an engaging

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user experience. FIGURE 3. Zachary Horn, First Car Accident: “The length of the tire marks indicates she was travelling well over 25”, from First Car Accident on thisMoment, courtesy of

Zachary Horn. FIGURE 4. Zachary Horn, First Car Accident: “The scar would remain for the next two years”, from First Car Accident on this Moment, courtesy of Zachary Horn. It could be argued that thisMoment's emotional coding is not very different from the practice of putting pictures into a photo album and adding comments, thus making the images part of a diaristic narrative, or framing an image in vocal narration. However, by

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tagging the emotion in advance, thisMoment attempts to textually build into the photographs (and other media) the chains of emotional associations ordinarily provoked by an image in the time of its display. In this sense, thisMoment's attempt to secure the emotion via a caption might be compared to Kodak's Autographic camera system, incorporated into a range of camera models sold by the manufacturer between 1914 and around 1930. Autographic cameras enabled photographers to make a written inscription on the surface of the negative at the time of the exposure; after taking a photograph the user could open up the small door on the back of the camera and using a provided stylus inscribe a brief note (see figure 5). Kodak ran associated advertising campaigns around the catchphrase “Let Kodak Keep the Story”, in which the benefits of a date and title were widely promoted. A recurring example used in promotional campaigns was that of making a note of the age of your child at the time the picture was made. As an advertisement from 1915 states: Make your Kodak story of the children doubly valuable, by dating every negative, by making brief notes that will help, in after years, to recall happily to memory the incident that led to the taking of the picture.

FIGURE 5. Keep a Kodak Story of the Baby (advertisement), 1917. Later campaigns played on the fear of memory loss; advertisements warn of a moment when “time has begun playing tricks with memory” (1917) or when “time has played sad tricks with memory” (1919). As another advertisement from 1919 states, “On each negative you may have, not merely the picture story, but the date and title, the full authentic history”.6 Needless to say, an interesting opposition emerges in these Kodak campaigns in which the image itself is associated with the realm of personal memory (a story), while the necessary textual supplement is implicitly more public and objective (history). 13/02/2011 01:56 p.m.


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thisMoment asks us to take this further, to objectify our emotional memories for the purpose of sharing them. Of course, Polaroid cameras also reserved a space for a user to write onto the print, to identify a scene and place. And later in the twentieth century, point-and-shoot cameras introduced date stamping that pre-empted the invisible meta-data produced by digital cameras. All of these forms seem to suit the notion of evidential record (the car accident) as much as highly subjective image making (the party shot). By implication, for thisMoment, as much as Kodak and Polaroid beforehand, a photograph alone cannot be relied upon to properly inspire the memory of dates, places, people and emotions. But what is distinctive about thisMoment is that the “owner” of the emotion and meaning of a photograph is the author of the photo-biography rather than the photographer. And, as is characteristic of the digital age, this emotional categorizing is constantly revisable, and may be commented on by others; unlike previous modes of codification, there is no physical negative or print permanently inscribed with a caption or date.

Past and future in the service of fantasy A second notable characteristic of thisMoment is that its timeline extends backwards to one's birth (or before), as well as forward into the future to our death (or beyond). A quick survey of the site reveals that several users have uploaded pictures of themselves as children, and even photos of their parents in their own youth. Traces of pasts that pre-date the memory of the user have been scanned and uploaded, with the nostalgic appeal of black and white photographs enhanced by the otherwise colourful site. Anticipations of future moments - in which photography is put to use to imagine possible future selves-to-be rather than to document one's past - are somewhat less common. Perhaps unsurprisingly, these seem to revolve around future purchases. One presumably young adult user published a common desire: “I really hope to buy a house to call my own some day”, accompanied by a set of Google images of real estate. Sure enough, this typical life aspiration is subsequently accompanied by a set of commercially sponsored “featured links” to real estate sites. In other words, moments are eminently commodifiable; the visual expression of future desires provides an ideal mechanism for the recording and measurement of brand choices. Here, thisMoment's ideological address is arguably at its clearest; its emphasis on special moments is perhaps nothing less than an address to the consumer as a singular subject, unique in his or her past and future consumption. In this manner, thisMoment enlists emotion in order to participate in the training of the neo-liberal subject as a narcissistic consumer engaged in an endless project of self-making (Illouz). In its animation not only of the past but also the future, thisMoment seeks to organize and share both remembrance and expectation, one's life-long desires. As the site suggests of its central visual device, “The Moment Theater is a place for you and your friends and family to share the Moment - interacting, collaborating, remembering, and looking forward to the Moments you share together.” All of this updates Roland Barthes' well-known insight that “the age of Photography corresponds precisely to the explosion of the private into the public, or rather into the creation of a new social value, which is the publicity of the private: the private is consumed as such, publicly” (98). By reconfiguring private experience as a dramatic performance, or a spectacle of individual self-fashioning, we are encouraged to become self-conscious spectators, as well as promoters, of our own lives: “The Moment Theater seamlessly combines your words and your media to create a dramatic and unique viewing experience.” This is nothing less than the logic of advertising applied to the presentation of the self, and perhaps a logical extension of what van Dijck identifies as characteristic of digital

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photography in general, with its advancement of “the concept of autobiographical remembrance as a mixture of memory and desire, or actual pictures and idealized images” (107). In thisMoment, one's past and possible future may be expressed and re-imagined in fluid visual statements, grabbed from the global media archive, in a radical updating of the older concept of the personal scrapbook. In this sense, the software becomes a vehicle for the re-contextualization of photographic imagery in the service of perpetually mobile and transferable desires.

Public media, private memory Perhaps the most important feature of thisMoment's visual timeline, as I have already indicated, is that it enables users to supplement their own photographic memories (and fantasies) with fragments from the broader visual archive. In other words, unlike the traditional photo album, and more like a blog, the “moments” do not need to have been experienced first hand and their visual record can be publicly available rather than privately produced. For instance, a trip to Paris can now be illustrated with images of the Eiffel Tower found by a quick online image search. Of course, once again there is a long history to such practice. In the nineteenth century, before tourists regularly carried their own cameras, images of faraway lands such as Egypt by photographers such as Francis Frith could be purchased and put into personal albums; the addition of text turned a generic photograph into a subjective memory of a tourist experience, and thus commercial photographs became enhanced memory images. Again, in the twentieth century, postcards are often inserted into family photo albums in lieu of an original photograph of well-known tourist sites; however, the imperative to announce “I was there”, no matter how generic the resulting image, meant that postcards posed no threat to the sale of film or cameras. Importantly, in a concrete realization of the long-predicted integration of photography with multimedia, thisMoment invites us to situate our individual memories within wider, more public histories - the broader testimonies provided by the media-managed historical record. In an implicit acknowledgement that Western eyes usually experience the most important political and social events through media images rather than being physically present, we are positioned as witnesses not only of our immediate lives but also of media testimony.7 But unlike the pessimistic conclusions reached by postmodern philosophers such as Jean Baudrillard, thisMoment's promotional video, with its upbeat synthesized music, presents this condition as a state of metaphysical bliss.8 The example cited is President Barack Obama's November 2008 election victory speech. Like so many other media memories of events experienced via radio, television or the Internet, this memorable media moment is now available for “framing” in one's online memory archive just as easily as a personal photograph. The result may be understood as an instance of “convergence culture”, where media content flows across multiple channels, producing ever more complex and interdependent relations between top-down corporate media and bottom-up participatory culture (Jenkins 243). While not unique in introducing mass-media content to a biography site, thisMoment demonstrates an unusual degree of such cross-media mobility, aided by content arrangements with groups like Time Inc. In a double action, then, thisMoment asks us to publicize our personal lives as history and to domesticate historical events, to personalize history. It fuses personal and collective notions of memory, blurring if not altogether collapsing the distinction between directly experienced and mediated memories and desires. Depending on one's critical point of view, this blurring either affirms postmodern pessimism about the 13/02/2011 01:56 p.m.


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collapse of memory into the eternal present of mass media representation or requires a more optimistic rethinking of how we conceive of historical consciousness in terms of what memory scholar Alison Landsberg has called “prosthetic memory”, memories that while not experienced directly “become part of one's personal archive of experience” (26). One thing is clear: inadvertently, thisMoment demonstrates that in order to make ourselves recognizable to others, our account of ourselves requires the account of what is in fact shared, substitutable.9 However, the placing of publicly available media footage on the same level as personal photographs effectively ignores and naturalizes the ideological content of that media. In stark contrast to forms of participatory journalism that encourage us to adopt a critical relationship towards media imagery or even take control of the means of producing it, thisMoment adopts a conventionally passive engagement with media flows - precisely as a collection of sentimental moments. Users are given no tools or support to critique the official media archive, to look behind the hyper-managed media fronts and take up more active roles as witnesses in public space, nor to consider the role of media technologies in the active staging of history. Instead, we are positioned as mere appropriators of media flows. The underlying message - to see one's life as part of a broader historical narrative can therefore be compared to Diana Taylor's account of events such as 9/11, where she has argued that individuals take photographs to feel directly involved in public crises, in order to successfully claim to “have been there” and even to be “interpolated as potential heroes” (Taylor 252).

Conclusions Online photo-biography sites are fluid archives for the display to others of one's personal and social identity, for the manifestation of public visibility and the social affirmation of our existence. And as Jacques Derrida famously observed, “what is no longer archived in the same way is no longer lived in the same way” (18). In effect, these archives are spaces for the construction of what Anthony Giddens calls a “reflexive project of the self”. As a technique of self-formation, they fulfil a similar function as the personal diary or blog - an attempt at biographical and narrative construction of oneself, and part of “an-going 'story' about the self” (Giddens 54). By reconfiguring our everyday reality into a story form, we create a sense of order that is comforting; this appears particularly appealing given the exceptionally fragmented nature of our present reality. Photo-biography sites like thisMoment are therefore a tool for the cultivation of the self, the enjoyment of which constitutes a peculiar privilege for those with the luxury to contemplate their lives as a “journey” towards success. ThisMoment marks a concrete example of what Fred Ritchin has recently called “hyperphotography”, whereby digital photography evokes a more complex past than a single moment, is “entwined by other media” and becomes both a “malleable dreamscape and memory magnet” (59). Not only is thisMoment a form of reflexive personal archiving, its “moment theater”, “moment flow” and emphasis on a “fluid, interactive timeline” underline the notion that memory is a trace that takes shape in the present; we are always recuperating, reconstructing, fabulating belated and phantasmatic accounts of the past. thisMoment underlines the “close interweaving of memory, imagination and desire in creating a picture of one's past” (van Dijck 101). A generous account of thisMoment would point out that the software acknowledges the relationship between personal and collective memory, the impossibility of a transparent account of the past and that self-making is a form of creative agency (Butler 17). The software offers a highly subjective space for the articulation and sharing of private memories - unlike the traditional family photo album, which for Bourdieu banishes “all

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the unique experiences that give the individual memory the particularity of a secret” (Bourdieu 31). At the same time, memory is externalized, presented as a selection, framing, or narrative of the past, connected to larger contexts of community, society, and history. Unfortunately, the potential of the resulting insight - that memory and history are not oppositional, but entangled - is undercut by thisMoment's commercial orientation; its rhetoric emphasizes the multi-mediated moment as a way to present the authentic private self, rather than the self's location in society. One is reminded of Jay Bolter and Richard Grusin's argument that “the hypermediated self is a network of affiliations”, constantly shifting but forever seeking to make the self present to itself (232). The current expansion of the means by which people archive their lives using digital photography can be understood to be indicative of a cultural anxiety about identity, part of a “larger transformation in which the self becomes the centre of a virtual universe made up of informational and spatial flows” (van Dijck 115). Social software such as thisMoment is one symptom of a process in which the site of domestic photography is displaced, in which personal cultural memory shifts towards a “distributed presence” (121). The mere fact that the image is no longer frozen in a moment or physically located in time produces a “different relationship with memory constructions” (Jackson 178). It certainly has the potential to produce a critical form of autobiography - one that emphasizes the situatedness of the individual in his or her social, historical and technological context. While the potential of such networked reflexivity is constrained by the more immediate imperative of subjecting partial virtual identities to marketing calculation, the conventions of the sealed family album are nevertheless increasingly challenged. As van Dijck puts it, “self-presentation, rather than family re-presentation - has become a major function of photographs” (113). The distinctive swing towards photography as a currency for social interaction must therefore be interpreted as part of a “broader cultural transformation that involves individualization and intensification of experience” (115). As it happens, despite having significant backing and a former Yahoo executive as its founder, thisMoment appears to have failed to make a major public impact, either because existing online photo-sharing services are satisfying present needs or this new “moment sharing consumer service” is too complex.10 It would appear there is no ready desire to organize one's personal online image world in quite the way the developers hope. Perhaps by its very nature, as an individual biography site, thisMoment is unable to generate the community of producer-viewers that constitutes the very core of sites like Facebook and Flickr. Nevertheless, thisMoment points to several new directions in which the corporate management of photo-sharing and social software might develop, and for this reason alone is worthy of our attention. To the extent that the entirety of our lives becomes ever more available as a digital archive, photography is opened up as a site of dialogue in relation to other elements of media culture. It hardly seems coincidental that the notion of “the moment” is re-privileged, in a freshly individualized mode, precisely when both the stability of memory and the still photograph's ability to capture events and generate shared experiences appear so threatened.

Notes 1 Fuelled by feminist theory and the boom in memory studies, recent years have seen considerable scholarly interest in family photography and the family album. Publications include Julia Hirsch's Family Photographs: Content, Meaning and Effect

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(1981), Jo Spence and Patricia Holland's edited volume Family Snaps: The Meanings of Domestic Photography (1991), Annette Kuhn's Family Secrets: Acts of Memory and Imagination (1995), Marianne Hirsch's Family Frames: Photography, Narrative and Postmemory (1997) and her edited volume The Familial Gaze (1999).

2 Flickr's “Keep in Touch” section states: Posting photos and videos for friends and family to see is much more rewarding when they're able to leave you feedback. Notes allow contacts to leave messages directly on your photos and videos (don't worry, they only appear when you mouse-over the image), while comments allow for a more general discussion below the image.

3 Encouraged by the website promotion: With millions of users, and hundreds of millions of photos and videos, Flickr is an amazing photographic community, with sharing at its heart. Groups are a way for people to come together around a common interest, be it a love of small dogs, a passion for food, a recent wedding, or an interest in exploring photographic techniques. And if you can't find a group which interests you, it's super-easy to start your own. Groups can either be public, public (invite only), or completely private. Every group has a pool for sharing photos and videos and a discussion board for talking. (Share, <http://www.flickr.com/tour/share>)

4 Jos van Dijck examines memory storage software such as Shoebox, Lifestreams and MyLifeBits, concluding that most software fails because it conceptualizes memory as a technical process rather than a cultural one (van Dijck 155).

5 As Lisa Gye observes, Nokia promotes its Lifeblog as a family-friendly platform and its advertising emphasizes the family connection (283). Gye quotes Nokia's publicists, who wrote in 2005 that: Nokia Lifeblog provides a simple method of capturing your daily experiences and unforgettable moments, like a child's birth or a friend's wedding and storing them all in one place. The memories you want to share can be easily posted to the web. The blogs can be accessed by the family, friends and colleagues via a passwordprotected area, or can be available for general access. (283)

6 Autographic cameras were also marketed along utilitarian lines to male users such as architects and engineers who could make use of “valuable notations”. Autographic

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film was discontinued in part due to the increase in sensitivity of available film emulsions.

7 Steve Edwards proposes an analytic division: “whereas memory entails association built on personal experience, testimony can involve events with which individuals have had no first-hand encounter but have access to through documentary records. Both memory and testimony involve forms of witnessing” (126).

8 Jean Baudrillard is specifically concerned about real-time media such as television that bring on the “[s]imultaneity of the event and its diffusion in information” (25). For Baudrillard, this is associated with a series of crises - the difficulty of separating the illusion of the image from the real world, the “real” foundering in “hyperrealism”, the loss of history memory and the instantiation of an eternal present.

9 As Butler puts it in a more general context: If I try to give an account of myself, if I try to make myself recognizable and understandable, then I might begin with a narrative account of my life. But this narrative will be disoriented by what is not mine, or not mine alone. And I will, to some degree, have made myself substitutable in order to make myself recognizable. (37)

10 In revising this paper in early 2010 I returned to the site, only to discover the following notice: “We've moved our moment sharing consumer service to http://www.thismoment.com/moments”. The overall site is now pitched squarely at companies wishing to engage in brand-building using social media: a service called “Distributed Engagement Channel” promises to “Upgrade your presence on YouTube, Facebook and the iPhone … to create, nurture and sustain connections between consumers and brands.”

Works cited 1. Barthes, Roland (1981) Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography Fontana , London 2. Baudrillard, Jean Zurbrugg, Nicholas (ed) (1997) Aesthetic Illusion and Virtual Reality. Jean Baudrillard: Art and Artefact pp. 19-27. Institute of Modern Art , Brisbane 3. Bauman, Zygmunt (2000) Liquid Modernity Polity , Cambridge 4. Bolter, Jay David and Richard, Grusin. (1999) Remediation: Understanding New Media MIT P , Cambridge, MA 5. Bourdieu, Pierre (1989) Photography: A Middle-brow Art Polity , Oxford 6. Butler, Judith (2005) Giving an Account of Oneself Fordham UP , New York 7. Derrida, Jacques (1996) Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression U of Chicago P

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, Chicago 8. Edwards, Steve (2006) Photography: A Very Short Introduction Oxford UP , Oxford 10. http://www.vodafone.com/flash/receiver/15/articles/pdf/15_08.pdf — Federman, Mark. “Memories of Now.” Receiver 15 (2006). 20 Oct. 2009 12. Giddens, Anthony (1991) Modernity and Self-identity: Self and Society in the Late Modern Age Polity , Cambridge 14. Gye, Lisa (2007) Picture This: The Impact of Mobile Camera Phones on Personal Photographic Practices. Continuum: Journal of Media & Cultural Studies 21.2 , pp. 279-288. 15. Hirsch, Marianne (ed) (1999) The Familial Gaze Dartmouth College , Hanover, NH 16. Holland, Patricia Wells, Liz (ed) (2004) 'Sweet it is to scan …': Personal Photographs and Popular Photography. Photography: A Critical Introduction pp. 117-164. Routledge , London 17. http://www.nettime.org/Lists-Archives/nettime-l-1004/msg00026.html — Holmes, Brian. “Re: The Return of DRM.” Post to Nettime mailing list. 29 Apr. 2010 19. Illouz, Eva (2009) Emotions, Imagination and Consumption: A New Research Agenda. Journal of Consumer Culture 9.3 , pp. 377-413. [ crossref ] 20. Jackson, Helen (2009) Knowing Photographs Now: The Knowledge Economy of Photography in the Twenty-first Century. Photographies 2.2 , pp. 169-183. [informaworld] 21. Jenkins, Henry (2006) Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide New York UP , New York 22. Kuhn, Annette (1995) Family Secrets: Acts of Memory and Imagination Verso , London 23. Landsberg, Alison (2004) Prosthetic Memory: The Transformation of American Remembrance in the Age of Mass Culture Columbia UP , New York 24. Murray, Susan (2008) Digital Images, Photo-sharing, and Our Shifting Notions of Everyday Aesthetics. Journal of Visual Culture 7.2 , pp. 147-153. [ crossref ] 25. Ritchin, Fred (2009) After Photography Norton , New York 26. Rubinstein, Daniel and Katrina, Sluis (2008) A Life More Photographic: Mapping the Networked Image. Photographies 1.1 , pp. 9-28. [informaworld] 28. Sontag, Susan (1978) On Photography Penguin , Harmondsworth 29. Sturken, Marita Hirsch, Marianne (ed) (1999) The Image as Memorial: Personal Photographs in Cultural Memory. The Familial Gaze pp. 178-195. Dartmouth College , Hanover, NH 30. Taylor, Diana (2003) The Archive and the Repertoire: Performing Cultural Memory in the Americas Duke UP , Durham, NC 31. Van Dijck, Jos . (2007) Mediated Memories in the Digital Age Stanford UP , Stanford

List of Figures

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FIGURE 1. Michael Palmer, Wedding of Charles, Prince of Wales, and Lady Diana Spencer, 29 July 1981, as photographed by my father on TV, in our family album, 1981.

FIGURE 2. Michael Palmer, Wedding of Charles, Prince of Wales, and Lady Diana Spencer, 29 July 1981, as photographed by my father on TV, in our family album, 1981.

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FIGURE 3. Zachary Horn, First Car Accident: “The length of the tire marks indicates she was travelling well over 25”, from First Car Accident on thisMoment, courtesy of Zachary Horn.

FIGURE 4. Zachary Horn, First Car Accident: “The scar would remain for the next two years”, from First Car Accident on this Moment, courtesy of Zachary Horn.

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FIGURE 5. Keep a Kodak Story of the Baby (advertisement), 1917. Bookmark with: CiteULike Del.icio.us BibSonomy Connotea More bookmarks

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cultivation of the self