Lifelogging and Self Quantization : the good and the bad

There is a growing practice: recording and storing all what you see or what you hear on a daily basis to capture the most of your life. This is not really new and it already has a name: lifelogging.
Due to my activities I feel concerned by this new trend, so I would like to share some of my thoughts.

How people log their life

There are several ways to log your life, some are not new at all and others take it to the extreme level with the help of technology. You will find a non exhaustive list of manner to do it below, but, first you must understand that life logging and memories are deeply linked. Every time you take vacation pictures or write an article about what you saw, it’s considered as a kind of life-logging. The only difference with the practice we are discussing is that you don’t do it in a consistent manner but only for “special” reasons.

  • text: let’s take the example of a diary : recording your feelings, your thoughts and what you remember of your past days via texts is definitely a way to log your life.
  • audio: some people record everything they hear by taking a tape recorder with them everywhere. Even an iphone app already allows that.
  • analytics: recording stuff such as your weight or how much time you spent on the phone everyday is a form of life logging. We learn to do that early : when you were a child you often saw a pediatrician who records many things about you. In this case, the frequency is too low for a lifelogger. A better example of lifelogging through analytics is what Stephen Wolfram did.
  • picture: Taking pictures regularly of what you have in front of you is an efficient way to log. This could become  popular very quickly: Memoto, a kickstarter project of a portable camera, enjoyed a big success. It earned 11 times what they claimed, up to 550 000$.
  • video: video recording every moment of your life is the most extreme way of lifelogging. Some of these lifeloggers likes to broadcast their life 24h/24, 7d/7 but this has another name: lifecasting.

Life logging through pictures

Community

A community around this theme already exists. An active blog is dedicated to the subject and the community has its stars : Gordon Bell which ran a project called MyLifeBits about the subject, Stephen Wolfran, author of Mathematica, who lifelogged his life through analytics and Steve Mann, a pionneer, that started recording his life through a camera in the 80’s. Further more, with the rising number of self-trackings apps and the success of Memoto, we can expect that this community will keep growing.

memotoMemoto Camera

Self quantization

A few words about self-quantization. It’s a form of life logging but it does not have the same purpose. With self-quantization, you measure day-by-day some of your personal “parameters”, the most obvious ones are your weight or sleeping time, but you could quantize your cafeine consumption too… The objective is to achieve performance goal, to try to stop/diminish bad habits or simply to know yourself better. Of course various objects can help you in this task. See this dedicated blog for more.
NB: Softwares can use these data to help you in your decisions by giving you some advice. It looks similar to the Business Intelligence principles applied to individuals.

stephen_wolfran_email_activities

Social tools

Emails, collaboration tools and social networks are a form of lifelogger, when you do an interaction it is stored somewhere. Moreover, it becomes a collaborative lifelogging, because your contacts talk about you. Facebook team understood this by providing you the timeline, the activity log and the choice to post “life events”, such as the first time you wore glasses. Aggregating these trackings from every social media or tools you use would define you as an efficient lifelogger (Locker Project aimed to do that).

Gordon Bell doesn’t recommend Life Logging through social networks. But distributed ones that respect privacy which consequently will lead us to more intimate sharing and more logging.

NB: Max Van Kleek does great research about virtual personal assistant and talk about atomate, a software that uses your personal and social data to do automatic actions. In the same spirit, a company named Tray will provide  service around emails.

ownbits

Benefits

  • The most obvious one : it avoids the loss of memory, you can remember your whole life.
  • Make self improvement easier: you can set goals and see your progress. Having the whole picture of your problems and identify the wrong patterns helps tou to make the right decision.
  • Aggregating analytics from a lot of lifeloggers may improve studies like medical ones.
  • Allowing a software to take advantage of this data could help lifelogger to do more.

Drawbacks

  • This violates privacy of others : by logging your life, you log the life of others.
  • See ourself as a machine :  over self-watching could lead to more stress, endless suffering (always a bigger goal to achieve) and a lack of self-esteem by comparing too much with others. At last, It could make you appear less spontaneous.
  • The fact that we forget is not only a bad thing, the selection made by our brain is not useless:  with lifelogging there are possibilities of reviving bad events, secondly there is a good chance that you will be surrounded by data overflow.

My short term prevision

  • Reality shows will look boring compared to lifecasting channels.
  • Depending on the job, recruiters will ask you some personal analytics.
  • Social networks will allow to share continuous photo streams.

Science Fiction

To finish this article, here is where lifelogging could lead us in a thousand years (or less):

  • In a world where every one lifelog and shares his life, anyone could act as a god: seeing what everyone is doing on earth and commenting on it. But in that case, we would probably live in a 1984-like world.
  • We will see android that try to replay a given life in a new context. What would happen if Brad Pitt was born in another place at a different time ?
  • We will see androids that act as human because they will base their decision from what they learn from human lifestreams.
  • Amnesia will be cured through lifelogging.

NB: Why i’m interested in this trend

I’m not an extreme lifelogger, but like a lot of people I log a lot of stuff through my blog, my Facebook and Twitter accounts, my note manager and my todos. For the moment, the two tools I work on are actually life loggers. Newebe, like any social network, records all your social interaction. Cozy Cloud , which is a personal cloud, put all personal web apps in the same place: notes, bookmarks, feeds, banking.. that serves as an efficient personal data store. Both of these tools could be use efficiently by lifeloggers to achieve their goals, they have different functions that is connected to the lifelogger community.

3 Responses to Lifelogging and Self Quantization : the good and the bad

  1. Thatoo says:

    bien vu ce petit rappel!
    Si j’avais connu Memoto avant de partir, je me serais sans doute laissé tenter pour le voyage.
    Mais jamais dans le reste de ma vie.
    Merci,
    Thatoo

  2. Pingback: My Mind Bursts

  3. Pingback: Is lifelogging a solution on the lookout for a problem? | My Mind Bursts

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