Thursday, 15 September 2011

The observation of a moment

Tick, tock, tick, tock. Time is not what matters to people. Time can fly by unnoticed, or drag endlessly on. Time is unimportant, except in that it serves as a scale by which we can track what really matters to us.

What matters to us is moments. Moments can be joyful or they can be heart-breaking, they can be fascinating or excruciating. They can be turning points, filled with importance, or they can be seemingly irrelevant. They can be intensely private, or they can be shared on a global scale. They can smash into our lives, changing everything, or they can slip quietly away, unnoticed. They can even time travel, returning unexpectedly from an age ago to haunt us.

A moment is a human observation, as simple as that. Our observance of moments, and our reaction to them, is what makes us so uniquely human.

Time is one of our most powerful tools for measuring moments. It allows us to plan them, mark them, log them and file them away. With time as our tool, we can see the sequence of moments that runs through our lives, and from this we can better deduce their relationship with other moments, and their size and scale. Effectively, this scientific tool for noting the impact of moments on our lives helps us to step outside of the blooming, buzzing confusion of our subjective experience.

We humans are inventive - impressively and endlessly so. As we progress and construct invention after invention, we have better and better tools for measuring and making sense of moments.

Moments are now tracked in unprecedentedly granular detail. We live our lives by the watch on our wrist, by the calendar on our computer. In the last few years, we have fallen in love with an explosion of amazing enhancements for capturing moments - all available through our mobile phones, iPads, laptops and TVs. Facebook captures exchanges between friends the world over. Google organises our world, making a reference to any and every experience just a few clicks away. We share photos. We share videos. We share commentary. News is no longer just up-to-the-minute. It is practically up-to-the-second. If someone works something out, or adds something new, almost anywhere in the world and at any time, it can be shared as a global moment within an instant.

Imagine the farm labourer tilling a Yorkshire field in the Middle Ages. I'm sure he couldn't tell you exactly how old he is, let alone the date of his wife's birthday, let alone any news from anywhere more than a few days' walk away.

Our world has not become smaller through technology. It has become incomparably larger. Digital tools are not separating us from the flow of our lives in the real world. Far from it. They are allowing us to pore over our lives in incredible, unprecedented detail. Through technological tools, the human race is becoming a master of it's moments.

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