Modern definition of experience

Ruben taking photo

It seems to me that the modern definition of experience is changing. That once we would be perfectly happy to go somewhere and see things, purchase our souvenirs and leave, we now feel the need to document and share our experiences with others.

The modern take on experience which Ruben explored yesterday was a topic that was widely discussed in one of my classes last semester, and his post yesterday evening reminded me of those discussions.

One student, also a parent, during class recounted attending a concert with her daughter where their ideas of ‘experience’ differed greatly. While she was enjoying herself dancing along to the tunes, her daughter was too concerned in recording the event to become immersed in the experience like her mother. The younger generations of today, in her opinion, seemed to place greater emphasis on living through their phone screens, or the viewfinder if you will, than in reality.

One only needs to see the numbers of phones and iPads waving in the air at fireworks celebrations and concerts to see how many people place the emphasis of recording an event over seeing it with their own naked eyes — unless you’re wearing glasses. Sometimes at the cost of others’ experiences.

Of course, as Ruben says, there are several ways to view this.

If you want memories in your heart, maybe you can leave the camera at home. If you want to remember an experience, perhaps pulling the camera out can help. If you want to improve your photographic technique, and see the experience as a vast subject for you to focus on, then by all means snap away.

Sometimes when I’m watching fireworks, seeing it is enough, especially if it’s something I see often, but fireworks is also uncommon enough that it provides a prime opportunity to practice photography. One way I got around this in some years was to place the camera on a level surface, set everything the way you want it and keep pressing the shutter button while you simply watch the sky, and be surprised by the results.

In terms of Ruben and my experience yesterday at the Rail and Train Museum at Thirlmere however, that was more about the experience than the photos. Armed with only my 35mm Nikkor lens, often it was difficult to get to the sufficient distance to get the photograph I wanted. It was enough to have photos to remind me of the experience itself regardless of quality because its quality is granted in memories.

At least for me, memories in my heart is not enough because memories fade. Although photos are just as susceptible to a slip of the ‘Delete All’ button, they at least have power to signal boost those memories.

You could say taking photos at all ruins the experience — is it enough time to take everything in? But rather than spending the time yesterday reading every plaque, I took photos so I could read them later if I wanted. This allowed me to spend my time more effectively, seeing more of the amazing locomotives overall, but with the collateral of understanding less in the immediate future.

There is one final way to see this though, one that Ruben is less able to experience, and that is the camera in aiding your experience. Being the average height in Hong Kong, I am below the average height in Australia which means I am often dwarfed by everyone else in the crowd (a problem said boyfriend does not have!). Sometimes only by lifting my camera in the air and using it as a periscope am I able to see anything. In this instance, there is no experience without the camera unless the experience is staring at the backs of other people’s heads.

In my point of view, if that’s the way you prefer to experience something then that’s your choice in life as long as you are not affecting others’ experiences in your actions. Perhaps with our global culture, we value sharing experiences more than keeping them to ourselves, or perhaps we just like the bragging rights. For me though, the way I experience something depends on the occasion. Perhaps I’ll be as optimistic as Ruben as well and hope that I can have the best of both worlds.

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