HTC Zoe and the assemblage of everyday life from zoetropic snippets

The HTC One phone features an UltraPixel camera and a distinct shooting mode: Zoe. In a nutshell, HTC Zoe seems to be a mode/feature that enables the production, display, and easy sharing of high quality three-second movies. It also appears that the Zoe offers a range of vintage-y filters to give each snippet a different look. HTC offers its own evocative description of Zoe, laden with affective possibilities:

“HTC Zoe gives people the ability to shoot high-res photos that come to life in three-second snippets. These Zoes, photos and videos are then displayed in a unique way that brings the gallery to life and transforms the traditional photo gallery of still images into a motion gallery of memories. It also automatically creates integrated highlight films from each event comprised of Zoes, photos and videos set to music with professionally designed cuts, transitions and effects. These highlight videos can be remixed or set to different themes, and can be easily shared on social networks, email and other services.”

Use of the term “zoe,” obviously nodding to the technology’s capacity to bring photos “to life,” also points to the zoetrope, which featured a similarly fixed set of possibilities for animating short sequences of pictures (zoetrope strips usually featured 12-13 images, compared to the HTC Zoe’s ability to animate 3.6 seconds of HD video or 20 photos shot at six frames per second). HTC’s insistence on asserting the use of the neologism Zoe is fascinating, and I’d be thrilled to see it catch on in vernacular speech to describe these short moving image snippets. The HTC Zoe seems to me to be another example of the resurgence of zoetropic media forms, such as the popular app Vine, which enables users to create short, looping videos and is, according to its own promotional rhetoric, “the best way to see and share life in motion.”

What further interests me about this kind of new media is the implied commensuration between the experience of everyday modern life (always being on the go, inhabiting a world populated by streams of audiovisual information) and the short, 3-second excerpt of that life, which, in its spreadability (yes, spreadability!) becomes a basic unit of memory and emotional exchange. Much like the zoetrope was emblematic of the increasing dynamism of nineteenth-century life, these new moving images represent a fascinating format to keep us all connected.

Here’s a screenshot of the HTC One’s Zoe interface:

And here’s a video compilation, showing the Zoe in action:

HTC Zoe and the assemblage of everyday life from zoetropic snippets

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