the fo­rum

The Weekend Australian - Review - - CONTENTS - Deirdre Macken

AT the end of the day on Ja­pan’s snow­fields, a group of snow­board­ers was sit­ting in a bus when one of them looked out the win­dow and yelled to his mates, “Hey, check that old guy. He’s got his Go­Pro on back­wards.”

As the board­ers burst into laugh­ter, a few other mid­dle-aged skiers on the bus were cring­ing in sym­pa­thy. The old man out­side the bus, the one who’d recorded the day’s ski­ing by film­ing his tracks, was one of us; this was yet an­other mo­ment when the older gen­er­a­tion adopts a new tech­nol­ogy and stuffs it up.

There comes a mo­ment in the life of ev­ery new tech­nol­ogy when the mid­dle-aged de­cide to give it a go and, de­spite the fact most will have a “Harry-high-pants” mo­ment, that’s also the mo­ment new tech­nol­ogy goes main­stream.

If you were to cre­ate a graph of when a par­tic­u­lar tech­nol­ogy went main­stream, you could mark the start of the sales jump and say, “That’s when my dad asked for a life on Candy Crush” or, “This was the day my mum asked me to Friend her” or “This is when grandpa started talk­ing about go­ing to the rain clouds.”

Fit­tingly, the week we wit­nessed some­one’s dad wear his per­sonal cam­era back­wards was the same week Go­Pro — the wear­able cam­era favoured by sports­peo­ple — an­nounced it was go­ing to float on the mar­ket. And while the mar­ket awaits the ar­rival of the world’s big­gest sell­ing cam­era, you may be think­ing, Go What?

Go­Pro is to home movies what Google is to search. These com­pact, por­ta­ble, rugged cam­eras can be mounted on hel­mets, bikes, boards, swords and even the pet dog to record the ac­tion for pos­ter­ity or, more im­por­tant, for down­load­ing and dis­tri­bu­tion to friends, fam­ily and, some­times, the fam­ily lawyer.

It’s no sur­prise wear­able per­sonal cam­eras grew out of the ex­treme sports in­dus­try: they give a close-up of the fear, grunts, sweat and de­bris of ad­ven­ture. What is sur­pris­ing is how rapidly these wear­able cam­eras have been adopted by the broader pop­u­la­tion.

Ev­i­dently, lots of people like be­ing stars in their own lives. Last year 2.3 mil­lion people de­cided wear­ing a cam­era was the best way to record their achieve­ments. It was the tech­nol­ogy that en­abled them to get out of bed ev­ery morn­ing and de­clare, “To­day is the first day of the rest of the movie.”

And, yes, we have al­ways been the stars in our own lives, it’s just that in­creas­ingly the drama of our lives is no longer an in­te­rior story but a film posted on­line.

Dis­tri­bu­tion is the point of the ex­er­cise. Whether you post it on Face­book, edit it into a home movie or upload it to YouTube, your mo­ment of der­ring-do is likely to end up in the gi­ant, on­line me­dia em­pire called My Mo­ment of Mad­ness. It’s not re­ally called that, but these per­sonal clips of ac­tion are be­com­ing a new me­dia genre — one that Go­Pro and other oper­a­tors are mogul-ing up to.

Al­ready, Vir­gin has an in-flight chan­nel de­voted to stunts and Go­Pro it­self has its own chan­nel on YouTube.

And that’s where the nana re­sponse comes in. If you’ve got a cam­era on your head, you’ve got to per­form. You’re un­der pres­sure to push the bound­aries in the name of good footage.

As the mar­ket ma­tures and falls into the hands of stock­bro­kers, the need to go ex­treme will lessen. Al­ready fire­fight­ers mount cam­eras, surgeons wear them for teach­ing and po­lice are us­ing them for pro­tec­tion.

The per­sonal cam­era is com­ing in from the snow­fields to the class­rooms, board­rooms and court­rooms. And, as mum and dad and mid­dleaged pro­fes­sion­als take the me­dia main­stream, they’ll do it their way. Even if it is back­wards the first time they try it.

When the laugh­ing on the bus was sub­sid­ing, one of the snow­board­ers said, “It’s not so crazy wear­ing it back­wards, you get some good stuff that way.”

The other board­ers qui­etened; they imag­ined the scenes that they might cap­ture with a back­wards-mounted cam­era. Was this a new an­gle they’d never thought about be­fore? Then one of the board­ers said, “No, that’s just where the ac­tion is for the old man. It’s all be­hind him.” The mer­ri­ment re­sumed.

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