I always thought that what Instagram did really well was to help you capture a moment like you’d like to remember it was (not necessarily exactly how it was). The app kind of visually editorialised over what was happening, adding something (effects) you probably wouldn’t have been able to art direct yourself. So it helped you make beautiful momentoes. And in doing so, Instagram positioned itself much closer to users’ hearts than Facebook managed, with its factual, snippy status updates, or than Twitter with its more cerebral breaking news pieces and outbound links. Instagram managed to create an environment where it was easy to create beautiful artefacts, and then built a community around those feeds that were generally supportive and affirming. I think this affirmation has become part of the memory itself. Something happens, you capture it and Instagram it and then a later recollection of that moment is comprised of the event, the process and the outcome. Of course for the user, this is all mashed into one, single memory. And it’s often a better memory than you might have been left with without Instagram. It’s quite the product ambition, but maybe Instagram set out to make memories better.
Of course, throughout all of this, there is to some degree a suspension of disbelief by the user and community. Everyone knows the view didn’t look like that, that the sun wasn’t that saturated to the human eye and that those friends didn’t look quite as much as though they had come straight from a Terry Richardson shoot. But I was thinking recently about Instagram’s decision to add video to its service. It’s an incredible technical achievement (filters processed on the fly, anti-shake camera). But with more frames, a broader picture of what’s happening and more perspective, what effect will this feature have on the service’s ability to shape and stylise memories simply and beautifully? The reality of video competitor Vine is that a massive proportion of the value that service offers users is in the “method”, not the outcome. Vines are fun to composite but ninety nine percent of them are completely unwatchable. And as a result, Vine may never create the same kind of community around its creations.
This morning I came across this great post which calls Instagram’s addition of video, “The Death of Fantasy”. Exactly. Of course people will jump into videogramming and probably create new sub-art forms. But the memory making has changed by becoming that little bit more literal. I’m sure product developers and startups in similar fields will be watching the effects of this with interest. It only takes a tiny glimpse of an edge case amongst online communities for a fresh new service to rise from a rupture in usage. Let’s see.
NB: If you want to videogram your food, wobble the plate a little. Makes it more interesting.