Fraternity brothers Evan Spiegel and Bobby Murphy developed a photo-messaging app called Snapchat in which a picture deletes itself within 10 seconds of being sent. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snapchat – History). People of different demographics have understood this app in different ways and popular opinion has evolved through cultural discourse. This evolution/discourse exemplifies what Tom Gunning talks about with Onian’s four stages of new technology in his “Re-Newing Old Technologies”. These stages refer to how people initially react with astonishment towards a striking experience caused by new technology and then move on to physical paralysis. After, there is a mental reaction which finally leads to a new action. The first and last stages can be seen through initial controversy over technology and then through an ultimate embracing of this technology.
When Snapchat was introduced it was perceived as a means for sexting and seen as dangerous because people, particularly older adults, were skeptical of how permanent its delete function was. Parents worried undeleted images could jeopardize their child’s acceptance into college. Many critics were unsettled by a medium that accommodated the sharing of nudes among young people, as can be seen by many articles designed to inform and warn parents like this blog post or this article by CNN. On the other hand, young people found that it helps keep them connected. It’s more casual than a text, takes less time to send, and doesn’t need to be part of a conversation, rather just a check-in. In Bloomberg Buisnessweek a young girl talked about how it would be a nice way to communicate when she went off to college because “you actually get to see the friend’s face for a quick 10 seconds. It’s more personal.” This divide between how older people and young people have approached Snapchat says a lot about digital natives vs. digital immigrants.
These reactions evolved over time, especially when founder Even Spiegel explained (in an interview with TechChurch) , “I think our application makes communication a lot more human and natural” because it’s not permanently recorded, like a real conversation. Snapchat is innovative because it challenges the permanence of web interaction. New York Magazine explored the recent use of Snapchat in Wall Street and reports that young businessmen use it as a means of publicly displaying their wild adventures while also maintaining a professional online presence. This shows how the discourse around Snapchat has changed, exemplifying the final stage according to Gunning: new action. Even among younger people, Snapchat has created a new niche where people are comfortable enough to send ugly “selfies”, a phenomenon discussed in this article as well as this blog post.
Finally, there is also something to be said about habit, which Gunning discusses when talking about second nature. Now, people everywhere pull out their phone and take a picture in public. This works into Gunning’s idea of the “uncanny” because while this phenomenon is common there is still something strange or odd about watching a person stop in their tracks and take a weird selfie.
Work Cited (unlinked sources)
Gunning, Tom. “Re-Newing Old Technologies: Astonishment, Second Nature, and the Uncanny in Technology from the Previous Turn-ofthe-Century.” N.p.: n.p., n.d. 39-60. Print. <https://myasucourses.asu.edu/bbcswebdav/pid-8748043-dt-content-rid- 33138957_1/courses/2014Spring-T-FMS110-19727/Gunning_Re- NewingTechnology.>