“This? It is called a Pensieve. I sometimes find, and I am sure you know the feeling, that I simply have too many thoughts and memories crammed into my mind.”
When you’re a kid, it’s hard not to take movies seriously. After all, the events we see on the screen look like life. In a dark room, designed to limit any mitigating distractions, it’s easy to get pulled in…
What we come to learn about fiction is that it is something fundamentally different from reality. If we fall in love with a fictional character, we cannot track them down. Presented characters, we learn, live outside our reach. It’s just a trick, just pretend.
But fiction and reality are both kinds of the same thing—really just moving pictures. Even across different mediums, all stories compile to moving pictures. There is a continuum of participation levels among different modes of fiction. So while it’s true that textual or oral stories require more participation from the audience than theatrical performances, in our minds, stories take a particular form, which is the form of interaction we’re used to in the real world.
That’s the claim here. The moving picture is for all intents and purposes, the lowest level form of a story. When we encounter stories in the form of words, we’re still imagining them, still casting them as moving images. As a medium, moving images took storytelling to its logical conclusion.
In recent years, personal storytelling or sharing has driven an entire technological movement. Our modern creative media has empowered our aesthetic sensibilities. Instagram and its peers made it easy for people to be creative. They created creators. And that has been a generational watershed.
It turns out that people want to share their lives. With their friends, even with strangers. They want social validation for their own aesthetics. I see the world this way and it’s unique and beautiful, they seem to claim. Somewhere around the year 2011 we all became auteurs.
Real life, the kind we wake up to, has a single camera angle, an unreliable narrator and generally poor direction. But along the way, things happen that we designate in our minds as special. We store those things in the form of memories, these fragile, fading things that we sometimes call upon to construct our stories—the ones we tell others, the ones we keep for ourselves.
We currently share memories in low fidelity. We rely on 7 second videos or filtered snapshots. We have frozen moments. No matter how well filtered they are. Dumbledore had a solution for this problem and I think that by the time this generation of tool builders is done, we’ll have a solution not dissimilar to the “Pensieve.”
I believe that the potential of expressive media will be fully realized at the point that we are able to store and share our memories with the same kind of production value we see in the movies we love. With that kind of product, I’d be able to share the key moments of my life with my family and friends. Maybe even one day, my children. I wouldn’t have to tell them my stories. I could show them.