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Why lifelogging as total capture has less value that selective capture and recall.

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Beyond Total Capture. Sellen and Whittaker (2010)

Abigail Sellen and Steve Whittaker

Abigail J. Sellen (asellen@microsoft.com) is a principal researcher at Microsoft Research in Cambridge, U.K., and Special Professor of Interaction at the University of Nottingham, U.K.

Steve Whittaker (whittaker@almaden.ibm.com) is a research scientist at IBM Almaden Research Center, San Jose, CA.

may 2010 | vol. 53 | no. 5 | communications of the acm 77

You read about people looking at ways to capture everything – to automatically lifelog the lot. They constantly look for new ways to gather and store this data. What’s the point? Because they can? Who are they? Is it a life worth remembering? And do we need it all?!

Far better to understand who and what we are and use the technology either to ameliorate our shortcomings, aid those with memory related challenges and tailored to specific needs captured moments of worth.

There’s ample literature on the subject. I’m not overly excited about revolutionary change. It is as valuable, possibly more so, to forget, rather than to remember – and when you do remember to have those memories coloured by perspective and context.

My interest is in supporting people with dementia and cognitive difficulties – perhaps those recovering from a stroke for whom a guided path of stimulation into their past could help ‘awaken’ damaged memories. If lives are to be stored, then perhaps grab moments as a surgeon operates for training purposes, recreate a 3:1 tutorial system with AI managed avatars so that such learning practices can be offered to hundreds of thousands rather than just the privilege, elite or lucky few. Use the device on cars, not people, to monitor and manage poor driving – indeed wear one of these devices and see your insurance premiums plummet.

What does it mean to support human memory, rather than capturing everything.

Five Rs

  1. Recollect
  2. Reminisce
  3. Retrieve
  4. Reflect
  5. Remember

Despite the device SenseCam stimulate memories are as quickly forgotten as any other.
Whittacker 2010 – Family archives of photos are rarely accessed

Of less value than the considerable effort to produce these archives justifies.

  • Can’t capture everything
  • Need to prioritise – selectivity (as SwimTag and swim data)
  • Visual
  • Memory taxonomies
  • Quick and easy to use better than accuracy – good enough
  • Cues not capture – the data cues memories that are different to the image captured.
  • Memory is complex

Play to the strengths of human memory, help overcome weaknesses.

Incorporating the psychology of memory into the design of novel mnemonic devices opens up exciting possibilities of ways to augment and support human endeavours.

REFERENCE

Sellen, A. J., & Whittaker, S. (2010). Beyond total capture: a constructive critique of lifelogging. Communications of the ACM, 53(5), 70-77.

Whittaker, S., Bergman, O., and Clough, P. Easy on that trigger dad: A study of long-term family photo retrieval. Personal and Ubiquitous Computing 14, 1 (Jan. 2010), 31–43.

 

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