How will people see us?

We take a few pictures with the Kodak we got last year.  The students keep a serious pose, because this is the Guilded Age, very serious times and all.  What with the rise of industry, might as well look industrious.

"Mr. Johnson, do you think people will confuse us when we're gone?"

"What do you mean?"

"I mean, when we're all dead, will people look at the pictures and get the wrong picture?"  Kids say some of the most confusing and morbid things.

"I'm still not seeing your point."

"I mean, after we're dead and our children are dead.  Not that we should be having children since we're children.   But generations from now, will people look back at the scowls on our faces and think that things were more serious back in the day?  I mean, will they think kids never through a paper or slammed a slate down or smiled when they hit a home run or told a joke?  Will the picture be telling a lie?"

"Like Jesus," another girl adds.  "It never says he smiled, but I don't know, I guess . . . I guess I just always pictured him smiling when the kids ran up to him."

I stop the class at this point as we discuss what we record, the artifacts we leave behind and the huge gaps that are missing in history as a result.  Sometimes it seems that technology itself creates a narrative of a whole people group and its an image, but a very incomplete image.  It's what society wants people to think of itself rather than who the people actually are.  It has me thinking that maybe that's the tragedy of technology and the pitfall of posterity.  It always leads to selective memory.


  1. That would have been a nice moment with your students.

  2. I think this is a very interesting post indeed. Maybe this is the pitfall of technology. Will our descendants understand who we are from a picture that shows nothing of our personality, of our life, our happiness, our emotions. Or will they always only see seriousness and automatically think of that one adult they know who never laughs about anything but, rather, scorns everything? Are we really using technology for all it is good for? Could we use it more creatively, more for fun than an assignment? I think we could. And I think we should. Technology has proven itself to be a very useful tool indeed as far as education and the workforce are concerned. But could it also enhance our daily lives? Could it enable those who come after us to know what we were thinking when they look at our picture because we did have a certain happiness and light in our eyes? I believe so.

  3. Those are very good questions that your students asked. It made me think about this for the first time ever. What would our descendants think of us if all they seen was our pictures? I think that they would be confused by our sad faces at school. If someone snapped a picture of some of my college classes, my descendants would think that we were all being tortured in class. This is sad because education should be about learning in a fun way. When students sit in front of a power point lecture day after day, the learning becomes obsolete because no one is listening anymore. Students memorize the slides, spit it out for the test, then erase it completely the moment after it has been needed. If we were really learning, there would be smiles on our faces. This is a great blog and I really enjoyed reading it. It has left me with a lot of questions for myself.

  4. Hi! I've been assigned to read your blog post through my EDM310 instructor, Dr. Strange, at University of South Alabama. I love the conversation you had with your students. Kids are so funny and I can’t wait to be in your shoes one day! The children bring up a great point. When I go to Cracker Barrel and look around, there are the strangest pictures of children, adults, and whole families throughout the store. I’ve always noticed that none of those people in the photos are smiling; they aren’t even smirking! I asked mom why she thought that was and she suggested that it may have been because the dental services weren’t the best! It’s funny that I, 20, would be wondering the same thing as your kids are wondering. I am impressed that your kids knew to think so far ahead into the future. I constantly worry about what’s to come but I was definitely living in the moment before I hit the age of 16! Selective memory has its pros and cons. I wish we all knew what the past was actually like. I guess it’s our job to do the right things, in technology and other aspects of life, and to leave the right things so future generations will better understand us. Thanks for the stories! I enjoy them all! You can check out my blog at

  5. Hi! I am from Dr. Strange's EDM 310 class at the University of South Alabama. I have really enjoyed all of your posts, but I think this one is my favorite. I love that your students asked you that question and you taught them something from a simple question. I can not wait until I am able to do that. I never thought of people viewing us differently on whether we smile or not, but your students had some really great points. How do we know people were really happy in a photo or just smiling because their mom said to? It really is something to think about. Technology is letting us leave a legacy, and it is our job to portray it the way we want others so see it.