New Criticals

Happiness Apps: Chronicling Family Life in Precarious Times

Snapping photos, amassing artwork, noting first words, jotting silly stories, and recording performances: accruing and documenting the stuff of childhood seems to be attendant to the nuclear family package and a critical component of mothers’ everyday labors. In digital culture, opportunities for capture abound. Smart phones in hand, moms can take note and record daily family life without ever having to run for their cameras, and the practice of collecting family ephemera and photos in the digital age is located on digital boards, walls, and newsfeeds, carefully curated and constantly present. Indeed, a slew of apps have stepped in to assist in recording and organizing digital family scraps, promising moms a private digital space in which to conduct the work of collecting, curating, and chronicling the family in a multimedia presentation of photos, videos, sound clips, notes, and quotes. But how does the daily work of digital family archiving shape mothers’ relationship to their labors? How does it shape family life? What does the world of constant documentation mean for mothers and their care work?