At the New Museum's biannual Ideas City summit, artist Daniel J. Wilson pitched a vague concept about forcing people to record really mundane daily moments instead of obsessing over their virtual doubles. Another artist in attendance, Martin Adolfsson, took notice, and approached Wilson after the pitch, suggesting a random alarm to remind people to record their boring moments. Thus was born Minutiae, an anonymous photo-sharing app that, unlike uber-serious photography apps, encourages people to embrace the boring and mundane instead of meticulously sculpting the digital replica of their everyday lives.
Once a day, at random, all participants receive an alert to take a photo simultaneously, regardless of time zone. After taking the photo, the user is paired with a random stranger somewhere in the world who also just took a photo, and they are given 60 seconds to browse their chronological timeline or that of the stranger with whom they were matched. When the minute expires, the app shuts down, and the users must wait for the next alert to use the app again. Beyond the anonymity and its focus on the quotidian, Minutiae also prevents users from following anyone.
Despite Minutiae being a fully functioning app, Adolfsson and Wilson agreed that it should really be an artwork in and of itself. As Wilson tells Creators, it helped that they had a bit of a Swedish Arts Council funding instead of venture capital, so they were able to make what they see as a collective embrace of global mundanity.
"Our thesis is not that social media is 'bad,' just that it ends up making us look at the world, and documenting our experiences, in a very particular way," says Wilson. "Through our use of Facebook and Instagram and Snapchat, etc., we are in the continuous process (often unconsciously) of refining filters that determine how we capture our lives… Minutiae frees us from this pressure to perform since you no longer have the option to choose what you are documenting—connections are singular and random."
Another way Minutiae frees users, according to Adolfsson, is by restricting the time spent on the app to one minute per day. This flies right in the face most apps, which are designed to keep users locked in for as long as possible, or returning again and again like an addict.
"The app is a tool to help participants document their own in-between moments of life," says Adolfsson. "The type of moments that we usually don't think of as important enough to capture."
For Wilson, seeing the photos shared by anonymous strangers has given him momentary glances of the unfiltered lives of anonymous strangers from around the world. Like all other users, he has only seen the mundane moments from people he has matched with on a daily basis.
"Even with this small sample size I've been everywhere from a toilet stall in Lebanon to what looked like a funeral in Japan to someone watching Donald Trump on a TV in their living room in Spain," says Wilson. "For me the experience has been both voyeuristic and humanizing."
Click here for more information on Minutiae.