Ironically, there are African Bushmen standing in the exhibition hall of the Munich Media Days. I do not know why they selected this project, along all the social media and TV themes. Perhaps the scenes of the Kalahari desert are supposed to remind us of an old reality, that soon will become augmented.
The Bushmen’s names are Isaac and Stanley, so say the notes beneath the photos. They wear nothing but a loincloth and hunt for antelopes with bow and arrow. Their faces are tanned by the sun, their eyes squinting in the sun. A basic, a hard life, which at the same time occurs to the viewer so romantic and idyllic. The photos are mounted in large format in the exhibition hall. It’s the kind of rich, crisp images that are even more aesthetic than their motives. Between the screens there is a dark green Jeep, sparkling clean. Now even the last visitors got it: the safari feel, or better the romantic idea of the safari feel.
The installation is an island in the middle of the digital flatscreen world in the exhibition hall. Many visitors are drawn to the little oasis and to Felix Meinhardt, the young, bearded cameraman in blue shirt and jeans. He enthusiastically hurries from one corner to the other to explain the story behind his movie. His throat already has become hoarse. Him and a few colleagues made the award-winning film about the Bushmen in the Kalahari: “First Man” – modern documentary about the “Cradle of Life”:
At the same time, in the next room, there are talks on stage: experts with either scarf or tie are sitting in their chairs speaking clever things into their microphones. It’s about hip issues such as multimedia storytelling, crowd radio and sharing economy. I have to think about a course that I took the past week: “The Social Media Manager“, held by a social media expert with a man bun. So far, I‘ve assumed that the success of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the rest of them, is well connected with the fact that they’re fun. The course clearly taught me that the fun ends at a certain point, because “too much” digital community and “too much” posting strategy turn the funniest Youtube video into plain boredom. At this point I already had enough of the topic. Then comes the straw that breaks the camel’s back: I listen to a stage talk about Augmented Reality.
WTF is Augmented Reality!?
Augmented Reality is all the rage in the media world. It refers to the display of computer generated information within real images or videos. This means that you can look at Ikea furniture in your apartment before purchasing it, or you see Spiderman bouncing from the cereal box. This Video tries to explain:
In Germany the newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung has been very progressive and years ago published a magazine about and with the new technology: “Our magazine is alive”. Thought bubbles appeared above the portrait photos, a meadow turned into a parking lot or graphics in 3D rose from the booklet. In order to not constantly hold a smartphone or notepad in your hand, a device like the Google Glass is ideal for hands-free living in a Greater Reality. The Augmented Reality seems (so far) to be the pinnacle of digital evolution. Probably it will become part of our lives just as Google, Facebook and Co.
Is actually anyone still going outside without the intention to post the photos and create envy amongst network friends? Now we can make reality even better and more convenient. We can invent it from scratch, as the example of the student, who fooled her social network for several weeks with a faked Asia holiday. Why not go on vacation and know in advance that it will be great, without gastrointestinal problems, car breakdowns and pickpockets. Yes, reality hurts sometimes.
If you asked the Bushmen and Isaac Stanley, they could certainly confirm that an hour-long antelope hunting trip in the blazing sun is not a pleasant pastime. Also Felix Meinhardt noticed this, since he was there to film the hunters. Nevertheless, he is delighted. Among his photographs, he wrote a text. It says something like, it was a mind expanding experience at the very basal level of life and so pleasantly far away from the fast paced society that is ruled by trends and industries. I think many of the visitors secretly envy him.
Honestly, do we all need to go to the Kalahari to once again experience what reality really is? Or could we find a compromise, leave the smart phone at home sometimes and, for example, experience a walk in the woods just for ourselves? I will not feel guilty anymore, when my digital wall remains untouched for days or weeks, no matter how many reminders Facebook sends me.