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Narrative Clip – The Weirdest New Tech Trend

Record Everything

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Recently, whilst taking the train into London, a fairly unassuming man came and sat next to me. I followed the standard British travel etiquette: eyes forward, do not engage or acknowledge, but then he did something which I couldn’t help but notice. He fished into his bag and came back out with a small square device that looked a little like a mini-mp3 player and clipped it to his lapel. He didn’t attach headphones to it, start speaking into it or anything else, he just left it there, like a big, weird broach. Eventually, after much time spent trying to get a better look at it without making it obvious that I was doing so, I realised there was a small camera on the front.

It was mystifying, was he a secret agent? Was he filming a fly-on-the-wall documentary about the mediocrity of train travel? I could have just asked him, but once again, that would have gone against train travel etiquette and I didn’t want hired goons in black suits and gloves to haul me off the platform into a windowless room for a stern telling off.

It was only later that I found out what the little device had actually been, it was a Narrative Clip. In amongst all the different smartphones, tablets, Bluetooth headsets, FitBits and other well-established gadgets, this one has slipped under the radar, but it’s out there. So what’s a Narrative Clip? In essence, it’s just a small, hi-res camera that you clip to yourself as you go about your day-to-day life. Whilst on, it will take a photograph every 30 seconds, then at the end of the day it will compile the best ones into a kind of daily highlight reel which you can share online (or keep to yourself, depending on exactly what you were doing when you had it on).

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The original version (which has actually been around for a good year now) was a little clunky, but now the mark 2 version has arrived and streamlined the process. You can now upload via WiFi or Bluetooth rather than a USB cable and it comes outfitted with a more versatile clip and an 8 megapixel sensor, so it works just as well in low light. It can store 8GB of data and run on a single charge for 30 hours. With these upgrades (and via general word of mouth), you’re likely to start seeing a lot of these little guys popping up, raising one vital question: who on Earth actually wants to see a photographic play-by-play of somebody else’s day? Homicide detectives, obviously, but what about everyone else?

The minds behind it are pretty sheepish about actual sales figures, but the original Kickstarter campaign raked in over half-a-million dollars and they've had money enough to develop a new version so they must be doing alright. I can certainly see the appeal when you’re talking about holidays, live events or parties, if you have a camera clipped to your shirt you won’t have to run the risk of forgetting to take any pictures because you were too drunk or couldn't be bothered to lug one around. It also increases the scope for more natural, less staged photography, practically eliminating the chance of coming away with any selfies. That I’m definitely on board with.

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In a way, it’s kind of a more comprehensive, reflective counterpart to Snapchat and Instagram, building photographic memory banks of certain days which you can sift back through whenever you want. Of course, some people don’t like being photographed without actually being asked first and others don’t like being photographed at all. It’s unlikely that Narrative users are going to stop every single person they encounter and ask them if they mind, so a lot of people are going to get unknowingly snapped and probably aren't OK with that. Once I found out that the man on the train had been sporting a Narrative Clip, I was suddenly aware that now, somewhere out there, one or several images of me sat staring out of a train window were nestled in his daily photo journal. I don’t know quite how to feel about that. You never know when you might inadvertently breach someone’s privacy or worse, document them doing something they would really rather remained undocumented. In the wrong hands, people could map the device to some pretty nefarious ends.

It all comes down to how it’s presented as a product and how you present it as a user, just about anything that can record could be misused, Narrative isn't unique in that way, but the fact that people will only know they’re being recorded if they actually notice could be construed as a little bit creepy. Having said that, the idea has a wealth of possibilities, from work to play and it will be interesting to see how different people implement it as it becomes more popular.


Callum Davies

Callum is a film school graduate who is now making a name for himself as a journalist and content writer. His vices include flat whites and 90s hip-hop. Follow him @CallumAtSMF

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Narrative Clip – The Weirdest New Tech Trend Reviewed by Callum Davies on Tuesday, March 10, 2015 Rating: 5
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