Around this time last year, in 2014, the word “selfie” was added to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, following almost a year of the word making the rounds through American as well as international vernacular. What started as a seemingly innocent way to describe a photo you take of yourself quickly became a real thing, sparking even a television show. And of course, the infamous selfie stick. Selfie. Stick. There is no way to say that phrase and not feel a little stupid.
It’s also hard to not look somewhat stupid while using one. Extending a monopod almost two feet to snap a photo of you in front of wherever doing whatever may seem like a harmless way to document your vacation, but some of the most popular tourist art attractions in the world are pushing back, with officials citing that the sticks are obnoxious and potentially hazardous to the art.
In France, the Palace of Versailles is the most recent attraction to ban selfie sticks, with the Louvre reviewing their photography to possibly include a ban as well.
Meanwhile, in Italy, the Colosseum imposed a ban, after an official said, “The twirling around of hundreds of sticks can become unwittingly dangerous.” This image that is evoked of hundreds of tourists spinning around in circles in an effort to get the best photo and accidentally hurting themselves or others in the process is both simultaneously hilarious and saddening.
In Austria, the Albertina, one of the top art museums has been one of the first to ban selfie sticks, and require guests to check them in when they first arrive.
When I first heard about the selfie stick, I thought it might be a joke. When I first saw someone use one, I appreciated the novelty but couldn’t imagine paying actual money for one. Yet, I would argue that the practice of inventing seemingly dumb contraptions to go hand-in-hand with our advancing technology has been around for ages and will only continue to develop as our technological needs grow.
Perhaps the selfie stick will die out in the face of these preemptive bans, but it forces us to think about how technology, art, and people will interact in the coming years. Will it be important to see a painting in the Louvre and take in the experience for yourself? Or, will it be more important to prove you did the thing, that you saw the painting, that you were there?