Given its immense salience for today’s post-postmodern media environment, it seems incredible that The Truman Show (‘TTS’, Dir. Peter Weir) is fifteen years old, especially given that life since the film’s release has been eerily paying homage to this particular piece of cinematic art. Having influenced the world of psychiatry through the so-called ‘Truman delusion‘ – suffers believe that their entire life is being staged for the purposes of a reality television show – TTS is now making its mark on the emerging field of wearable technology via the Narrative Clip (‘Narrative’) camera from the Linköping, Sweden-based company of the same name.
Narrative (formerly named Memoto) is a small automatic camera which is designed to be worn around the user’s neck. Every thirty seconds, it takes a five-megapixel photo and selects around thirty of the best ones every day for permanent storage: like in TTS, nothing remains unrecorded. According to the November 2013 issue of Wired UK, the idea for Narrative arose from CEO and co-founder Martin Källström’s ‘miserable failure’ to keep his own diary; with Narrative, this process is, to most intents and purposes, outsourced.
There is a lot to like about Narrative: the camera is weatherproof; the design is genuinely iconic. Unlike its predecessors in this sector – spookily, the first mass-produced ‘lifelogging’ camera was released in 1998, the same year as TTS – the Narrative camera is unobtrusive and convincingly wearable.
But leaving aside the obvious possible flip sides to this invention – the implications for privacy, corporate and state espionage et al – what does this camera say about us as a species? We at Mediolana find it no coincidence that Narrative was conceived in Sweden, historically one of the most successful modern societies but now a country with much more self-doubt that it possessed a generation ago, not least as a result of rapidly-declining academic performance.
The state which effectively supplanted the Lutheran Church of Sweden (which ceased to be the official state denomination in 2000) as the main instrument of collective life is itself being eroded by individualism; religion has a marginal role in Swedish society. In this context, it is entirely appropriate that Narrative – which can be worn very much like a cross – functions as a digital crucifix, providing its users with a layer of experiential meaning; a thin one, but a layer nonetheless.