Foreshadowing Web 2.0

Polaroid SX-70Deconstructing Product Design contributor Rob Tannen writes on the Polaroid SX-70 and the original Sony Walkman — 70s and 80s-era products that touched the same desire to share experience that drives Web 2.0:

The ability to take pictures and then quickly see the results increased the informality around photography that we take for granted with digital cameras and camera phones today.  Rather than waiting days or weeks to finish the film roll, drop it off for processing and then await the opening of the photos (incidentally, a suspenseful ritual that has been lost), Polaroid photographers could share photos instantly (more or less)… 

I remember well the magical effect of the Polaroid. The little white pictures would be passed from hand to hand, so carefully, as each person in turn cooed and often giggled with delight at the developing image. The sharing meme was clearly there, magnified by both the immediacy and the precious scarcity of the item — shots were limited by the film’s expense and the individual images were one-of-a-kind, difficult to copy.

Now that technology has erased the latter limitations — effectively an infinite number of shots can be taken, duplicated losslessly and passed with little effort to an ever-larger circle of friends and family on the social networks —  the value added by scarcity and novelty has clearly diminished. Yet the enormous volume of photos on sharing sites like Flickr and Facebook attest to the continuing, unquenched desire to share, to pass on the little rectangles that affirm our experience… 

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