Photography Social Media Tech

The Beginning of a New Photo Era


I love Instagram. I publish to it once every day. But lately, it’s making me bored and immune to photography.

Instagram isn’t edgy enough. There’s no story. Everyone takes a good picture. The line between professional and amafessional is blurry. The same can be said for VSCOcam which is beginning to develop its own artistic sameness. Meanwhile, Snapchat is raw and fun. Your snaps aren’t supposed to look beautiful. In fact, those selfie filters make you look worse.

But it isn’t the photographs or the social network as much as our addictive habits that are responsible for photography’s malaise. We document everything and keep everything because the cloud backs it up. What’s another picture in an infinite inventory of cloud space?

Last week, I blogged about Google photos doing a lot of the picture stitching for us. Algorithms that automatically organize and create visualizations out of our photos (and eventually videos) save us a lot of the creative groundwork, so all we need to do is publish.

I tend to think that my own digital frustrations become indicative of the broader tech community at some point. Maybe I’m ahead, or maybe I’m just burning out (thank you algorithms). But I do know one thing: I just can’t get through all this content. I can hardly get through my camera roll; never mind reviewing Snapchat stories at the end of the day.

“we have come to a point in society where we are all taking too many photos and spending very little time looking at them.” – Om Malik

Photography isn’t the problem. It’s the obsession with taking photos and our insouciance toward the actual moment. To steal another one from Om: “Today we don’t even think twice about snapping a shot.”

I don’t even think anymore. I just shoot to see what I can catch because I don’t want to miss that little speck of light or the dog’s wink. Perhaps, running out of space on our devices is the best thing to happen to us. We finally give up because we’re forced to look up.

Creativity Life & Philosophy Social Media Tech

From Minds to Algorithms


Predictability makes us confident. Predictability is what makes friends and family so trustworthy. We can guarantee with 100% certainty that they’ll be there when we need them.

Internet algorithms deliver the same predictability. Pandora, Amazon, even iMessage, can predetermine what we want to listen to, buy, and say next. Google already serves as a second brain, an external hard drive of memories and immediate answers.

But is automation what we really want? By outsourcing our decision-making, we’re “subtracting from your autonomy.” Algorithms pose a threat to human discovery and human serendipity. Sometimes we don’t know what we like until someone else shows us, we see/hear it 10x times thanks to pop radio, or we stumble upon it accidentally. There’s a special feeling you get when you discover something on your own.

I write about algorithms a lot. Why do we exist If technology and big data tell us what to do next? Predictability may save you time, for instance, in replying to a friend’s text. But if your friend is also using “predictive text” then machines are just talking to machines. The “Internet of Things” replaces humanness. Algorithms deserve our attention because they pose a threat to our free will.


Rise Above Big Data

Big data will crush life’s free will, planning everything to a series of algorithms that threaten spontaneity.

What you should wear, eat, read, or listen to next is impossible to predict. You may like something completely out of the ordinary, off the predictive radar. And you may even discover it on your own.

Time is short and you want the good stuff curated just for you so you can get on with the business of living. No one is arguing against that.

But embrace more organic discovery for what it’s worth. Don’t be afraid to go deeper and try something completely new.

“Expose yourself to as much randomness as possible.” – Ben Casnocha