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The increasing focus on reliving our digital past

New services are empowering people to reconnect with their memories and relive special moments

Innovation series by Steve Cosman
May 8, 2017 | Comments
Short URL: http://vator.tv/n/4985

We’re experiencing a global explosion of personal content, a deluge of digital data that’s partially curated, deleted or in the case of moments that often really matter -- lost in the ceaseless current of photos and videos.

Consumers only have so much time to collect, and more importantly highlight, their important memories. Photos sent to social media represent a very incomplete picture of our lives, even though 350 million photos are uploaded each day on Facebook.

Trillions of other photos are buried in this abyss of digital images we can only blame ourselves for creating, and not to mention, adding to each and every day. As a result, those photos, which are fragmented and spread across our many devices, are often neglected, leaving major parts of our lives unearthed.

Thankfully, new companies are helping people experience and take pleasure in their personal photo collections.

Here’s a look at several services empowering people to reconnect with the memories stored in the deep recesses of their minds and relive special moments.

The forgotten photos

Taking and sharing photos has never been easier thanks to smartphones and social media, though the underlying raison d’ etre for why people take them has never changed: to savor a moment in time. Without a photo, the memory eventually fades.

The vast majority of our photos are just for personal consumption and never make it to social media. It’s hard to remember this sometimes, especially for those who have a friend or family member who shares everything. You know who they are. But for the 99% of us, what is shared on social media is curated. It’s just a fractional representation of our life.  

The one or two photos are shared while the remainder are buried in private photo collections, unlikely to be viewed or enjoyed ever again.  

“Your personal nostalgia and your social life are two different things. It’s not just about what you’ve shared, but the photo on your phone. The things that are important to you now, but not then,” said Rick Webb, COO at Timehop, an app that allows its users to relive what they were doing on that day in history.

“For example, I had a photo of the first night I ever met one of my friends. I have a lot of photos of that party, but this one wasn’t shared with the Internet, because I didn’t know at time that it was important. It has a secret feel for me because it’s mine, and it’s something I personally experienced rather than what was curated.”

Timehop is one of a new wave of the services making sense of our past.

Reconnecting with our digital past

In the decade since the iPhone was launched, taking digital photos has become easier and easier. As a result, we've amassed giant photo and video collections. While some of these photos made it to social media, the majority are fragmented across various devices and cloud services.

Starting at the age of 25, people are increasingly interested in remembering their past. It's not just the major life events either; the little moments of everyday life are often the most cherished. Once a great memory is found, often with the help of one of these services, we have a natural desire to share it with the people who shared that moment. This sharing tends to be in tight-knit groups over SMS, messaging apps or around the kitchen table, not broadcast to social media followers.

“There’s this desire to relive all our memories, not just what I ate for lunch today. It’s not just about how amazing today was, but the amazing things that have happened. It's great that Facebook/social media is recently resurfacing old pictures because it allows us to respond to who we were, but there’s a fine line between that and another trend: the desire for privacy,” said Jacqueline Yuen, co-founder and SVP of Marketing at Joy.co, a Wi-Fi-connected smart photo album designed for more family time and storytelling. 

“There’s a certain level of anxiety about what’s going to get posted. Millennials are becoming parents, and their lives look very different now than they did before. They want to protect their kids in the future from posting embarrassing photos on FB. We are seeing an internal struggle from them between privacy and authenticity and being able to relive all our moments.”

Brad Kopitz, CEO at Artifact Uprising, also pointed to possible social media fatigue on the part of those users, which may also contribute to a further disconnect between what we share online and what means the most to us. Artifact Uprising is a photo printing company, allowing users to create photo books, gifts and cards.

“We are on the brink of social media overload. More people are starting to shut off and to get away from screens. What is going to happen when it’s too much? People will say, ‘No more, I can’t handle everything and everyone.’ That’s when curation will become more meaningful,” he said.

“As those consumers get older, they have less time, so what will that mean? Either taking it offline, or only curating to a group we want to see it.”

Our online personas and our offline selves are not always the same. Our favourite memories are often the little ones that a few close friends and family appreciate.  

Innovations

All of this opens up a huge opportunity for companies to help people relive their best moments with the same ease as scrolling through Instagram.

The way to achieve this is through simple user experiences that that don’t require choices and cognitive overhead. Someone might search for a specific photo once a month. But for every photo searched, there are a hundred others completely forgotten to have even existed, and the only chance to be discovered is through luck and serendipity.

The simplicity of a company like Timehop, which only shows its users what happened on that specific day of their lives, keeps people coming back on a daily basis.

“We tried a million different things. The history of our company is rapid iteration and experiments with different features,” said Webb. “We tried something called Facehop, which was a  complicated user interface where you had to align your face in the box each time. It didn’t work. What works well is how simple the app is.”

Apps that want to transform personal photos have to rely on curation through algorithms. The better stories the algorithms produce, the more often people come back to browse and share their memories. Better curating of photos can change the way we consume.

“Curation can be an overwhelming art and tech can help people get a jump start. Time curation, for example, can be impactful. Geotagging is important. Where were we? Who were we with?” said Kopitz.

“The other type of curation is contextual. First it’s organization by location and time, but the next evolution is what was the experience we were having? We are taking more photos in one day than the entire 20th century. Context helps us get it down to the few we want to look at, to bring just the ones that are important. That is the challenge.”

A changing world

Photos are our windows into what came before. They are our way of telling our personal journey and contribution to history; through those images we can relive the past, rekindle a feeling, uncover new meaning, remember what was, and feel connected to those unseen in decades and loved ones long past.

These are moments etched in time. The last thing we should ever want to see happen is for those memories to be lost.

Now they won’t be.

Steve Cosman is CEO of Shoebox, an app that helps you find and relive the best moments of your life.

(Image source: memecenter.com)


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