Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
White Hat is upset at the sight of people photographing a richly colored sunset. His argument is that by documenting it instead of simply enjoying it, they have become an observer rather than a participant in life. Cueball expresses a contrary view, saying that not only does taking a photo of something help him focus attention on it, it is also none of White Hat's business how someone else chooses to enjoy a sunset.
Cueball's logic reduces White Hat to inarticulacy, then speechlessness. Cueball then takes a photograph, implying that he would most enjoy White Hat's discomfiture by recording an image of it for posterity.
Randall discusses a similar situation in the title text, the common modern phenomenon of restaurant diners photographing their meal. However, in this case he says he does not like them to document as he likes to listen to them eat. This may be sarcasm since not many people love the sound of someone else chewing. However, some people are annoyed by the food images posted to sites such as Facebook and Instagram. Note that the photograph is taken quickly; the chewing is only delayed for a few seconds. This brevity in delay can also apply to the main comic, since spending a few seconds photographing a sunset is just a brief interruption in enjoying the view sans camera.
This comic is referenced in Thing Explainer in the explanation Picture taker by a small drawing of people taking photos of the view from the edge of a cliff. Another Cueball standing behind those taking pictures (another than in this comic for sure) is talking to Megan:
- Cueball: I hate how everyone takes pictures instead of just enjoying the view.
- Megan: ...You say instead of enjoying the view.
See also 648: Fall Foliage about Megan taking pictures and Cueball complaining. Later in 1719: Superzoom White Hat and Cueball again discusses photography.
- [White Hat stands next to Cueball on a roof. There's a colourful sunset; in the distance, there are three people (a blonde girl, a Cueball-like guy and Megan) taking photos of the skyline as the sun sets.]
- White Hat: Ugh, I hate how people take pictures instead of just enjoying the view.
- Cueball: Why?
- [White Hat turns to Cueball.]
- White Hat: Documenting your life distracts you from living it. You're not really—
- Cueball: Oh, come on.
- [Only both their faces.]
- Cueball: Trying to take a picture of a thing makes me pay more attention to it. Some of my best adventures are built around trying to photograph something.
- [The panel zooms in on Cueball's face.]
- Cueball: If "other people having experiences incorrectly" is annoying to you, think how unbearable it must be to have a condescending stranger tell you they hate the way you're experiencing your life at just the moment you've found something you want to remember. Why the fuck do you care how someone else enjoys a sunset?
- [Zoom back out.]
- White Hat: Well, they...
- White Hat: Because I just, uh...
- White Hat: ...
- [Cueball takes out a camera.]
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This seems to be a reference to this video or one of many of the same ilk.
Which is doing the rounds on social media sites at the moment -- Gernant (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
Heard on a french radio show (Les grosses têtes) : A study made on student split in two group in an exposition : one group would photograph what they like, another one would photograph a certain set of pictures.
The study found that the ones who could photograph pictures they like, wasn't able to remember the pictures they liked.
The ones who wasn't able to photograph picture they liked, remembered it better.
I don't have link, sry, but white hat is proven right in this case. 220.127.116.11 09:21, 8 January 2014 (UTC) Juluan
- I think BOTH have point here. Trying to document your life IS distracting, especially if you overdo it (and make a lot of selfies), on the other hand it IS possible to enjoy your life and still take pictures. Except if something happens only once and quick: in that case, if you try to take picture, you won't be able to enjoy it ... and you might fail to take the picture in correct moment anyway. I recommend video in such case :-). -- Hkmaly (talk) 11:04, 8 January 2014 (UTC)
- Agreed, both are right. If you want to take an abundance of photos, go ahead. However, there are limits. If your doing so would spoil it for someone else, then limit yourself. Practice the same basic courtesy that should prevent you from talking out loud or texting during a movie. You're in a public place with other people who want to enjoy what's going on. They came to see the concert, not a sea of glowing rectangles (making a recording which will never be watched). 18.104.22.168 18:55, 8 January 2014 (UTC)
- I thought of that study, too... The first valid link I found was http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/is-facebook-making-us-forget-study-shows-that-taking-pictures-ruin-memories-8994917.html (of course being hampered by various variations of each of "memory" and "photograph" not being very rare in combination ( GoogleFu Golf, anyone? ;) ), but once I got there I found it was widely covered in the online media). But I'm not sure whether this inspired Randall in this case, because of (or even despite) the off-kilter reinterpretation. 22.214.171.124 18:07, 8 January 2014 (UTC)
- PS: The title text seems like obvious irony to me. -- Hkmaly (talk) 11:06, 8 January 2014 (UTC)
- The same could be said of many things. If you approach every social interaction as an opportunity to promote your campaign for mayor, or you duck out every few minutes for a cigarette, or you keep thinking you'd rather be at home watching the game and it's not like you need to be here anyway because these are all her friends, you're going to be similarly distracted. It's not about cell phones, it's about priorities. I've spent several dinners with friends sitting around a table all looking at our phones, but we're not ignoring each other, we're sharing pictures and playing board games together. Fryhole (talk) 19:41, 16 January 2014 (UTC)
I remember taking a few photographs of food that is WAY too fabulous in presentation. Greyson (talk) 16:28, 8 January 2014 (UTC)
- Just my opinion, but taking pictures of food-as-art makes more sense than taking pictures of your dinner. Fryhole (talk) 19:41, 16 January 2014 (UTC)
I would prefer to know Black-Hat's opinion on the subject. --DanB (talk) 18:25, 8 January 2014 (UTC)
- I'll try to channel my inner Black Hat to answer that: "Being a trained photographer teaches you to limit your perception to what you see through the lens and to think about how your picture is going look, and you lose sight of the bigness of the sunset and the feeling of the moment. But being camera free you're always going to wonder what the cameraman captures in the mechanical process of handling the camera, in the task of composing the picture in their head and in the frozen slice of sunset they get to keep. No matter how you try to enjoy the magic of the sunset, you're going to miss something that no one will ever be able to share with you, and see something you'll never be able to share with anyone else." 126.96.36.199 21:20, 8 January 2014 (UTC)
- That doesn't sound much like Black Hat to me. Wouldn't he just try to steal the camera? 188.8.131.52 01:54, 9 January 2014 (UTC)
- I think that Black Hat would be more "Being a trained photographer teaches you to limit your perception to what you see through the lens and to think about how your picture is going look, and you lose sight of me stealing your car." Kyt (talk) 02:49, 9 January 2014 (UTC)
Did anyone even read that abstract ( http://pss.sagepub.com/content/early/2013/12/04/0956797613504438.abstract ) ? It actually supported Cueball more than it did White Hat. If you just take a picture *instead* of looking seriously at the subject, then yes of course you won't have strong memories of it. But if you analyse the subject with the purpose of taking an effective picture, then there is no such impairment. Plus, you have a photograph. I'm removing the 'great irony' part of the explanation. Note that the rest of it is still very poor. 184.108.40.206 02:00, 9 January 2014 (UTC)
I have tried to improve it - sorry I still don't like it much, but perhaps others can pile on. 220.127.116.11 02:30, 9 January 2014 (UTC)
That just means they're both right (sans the 'correcting' peoples experience, but they're both guilty of it so moot point). White hat only edges out because his original posit was simply taking pictures robs you of memory, while Cueball was talking about trying to take pictures ignoring White Hats argument and going off on a tangent (ala White Hat). 18.104.22.168 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
- Not a tangent. He said "instead of just enjoying the view", as in "only enjoy the view". He presented a false dichotomy, and Cueball called him out. Basically, White Hat's argument was built on false premises from the beginning. Instead of addressing the argument directly (which was pointless given the false premises), he proceeded to smash away those premises by showing that you can easily do both, and possibly both more effectively than separate. 22.214.171.124 16:37, 9 January 2014 (UTC)
I disagree with this statement: This is expressed through irony by counter-statement. For just a few extra seconds, it must be admitted. Yes it is irony, but I believe the previous explanation was better. Here it was stated that the irony was to show how silly White hats problem with the sunset was - because his reason for it, would be as silly as this one with the chewing. I do not believe at all that this should be something Randall means. Kynde (talk) 07:59, 11 January 2014 (UTC)
Another commendable hidden-recursion-themed strip: Cueball is ultimately merely one-upping White Hat. White Hat enjoys directly experiencing life, but does not enjoy documenting life. But the thing White Hat enjoys most of all is spotting others "doing it wrong." Cueball, in turn, opines that by doing so, White Hat is also "doing it wrong." However, unlike White Hat, who appreciates all the wrong-doing from a distance, Cueball becomes indignant and confronts White Hat. Now who's the condescending stranger? But then: the well-timed "click," suggesting that Cueball's rant was dissimulation, with the true intent of putting White Hat off-balance for a photo op. If Cueball had facial features, I expect that we'd see the knowing smirk of "I see your game, and I too can play it. But when I do it, I take photos." Brilliant again, Randall! 126.96.36.199 16:36, 28 January 2014 (UTC)
Having my first experience with a White Hat-like person as we speak. Specifically, he's complaining that I'm playing in a Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition campaign instead of a 3.5/Pathfinder campaign. Boct1584 (talk) 19:25, 20 August 2015 (UTC)
I agree with both characters to an extent. The most annoying photographing I've experienced is during a total solar eclipse - when people were using the flash on their cameras... Cosmogoblin (talk) 08:57, 14 August 2016 (UTC)