A lot of our recent material in class – last week’s Cullwick and Mumby and the discussions of Thompson’s street life photography from several weeks before – is notable because is delves into the “less important” and thus less documented lives of the lower classes; we study this material because it offers some insight into how these other classes lived, worked, and loved. And we – or at least I – assume that this is a dead phenomena that no longer happens. But as I was reading the recent blog post on Humans of New York it got me thinking; is it really? Isn’t that why movements like HoNY are so popular; because they delve into the “less important” lives around us and reveal their charm?
Loss of information in the modern era is an idea that seems both ridiculous and entirely too probable. With so many ways of documenting information – media, the internet, photography, word of mouth, recordings, everything – the idea that something could go undocumented is almost laughable. But what does it really mean to be “undocumented”? Sure, almost every single possible action, lifestyle, social class, what have you of the current age has been recorded in some way, but can we really consider them ‘documented’ if no one pays attention? The lifestyles of the rich and famous and/or the sick and twisted are what make the news; the general public is still in many ways just as unrecognized as they were in the Victorian Era, at least by large media.
But then we consider the internet and the social networks, like Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pintrest, Reddit, etc. Places created for people to document their lives and their interests in as little or as much detail as they want; places that have been hubs of news the big media doesn’t pay attention to, or story lines they refuse to publish; places where the ‘undocumented’ voice is finding a foothold.
I just think it’s interesting to think about. We have this notion that ignorance of the lower classes and their lives is something exclusive to much earlier times when really I think it’s persisted up until the modern day. But now, with the explosion of communication-focused websites, are we actually moving to erase some of that ignorance?