Fig. 1. Bill Gates featured in a 1985 copy of a regional computer magazine
In the introduction to ‘Total Recall’ Bill Gates wonders when he and Gordon Bell first met.
Was in 1983 or 1982. What was the context? Can they pinpoint the moment with certainty? I ask, does it matter? I ask, who cares? What matters is that they met. A moot point if either one of them claims that at this time one took an idea from the other … and they want to claim bragging rights for a new word or financial rights to a product.
The players in this game of life-blogging or developing the digitally automated photographic memory (total recall) are communicating, sharing ideas, creating or stating an identity, forming allegiances and developing ideas or hedging.
Our memory is selective
Having some sense of what we put in and what we leave out, then having a way to manage what we retrieve how we use this and then add to the record.
As someone who kept a diary and put a portion of it online it surprises me and now worries me when a person I know says that x, or y found out something about them courtesy of this blog (posted 1999-2004).
Fig. 2. A grab from my Year 2001 Diaryland Blog. An evening out with the web hopefuls of Wired Sussex, Brighton.
I thought I’d locked the diary long ago – but of course various digital spiders have always been crawling the Internet snapping pages.
I think there are around 100 pages of some 1500 that I can never get back. It took me a few years to realise that I ought to change names and locations, but this became convoluted.
Fig. 3. Apple have started in an in-house business school, the Apple University, to teach people to be like Steve Jobs.
How might a digital record of a person have assisted with this? And what would be the warnings over diet and over behaviours?
The value of this content would be if I had a life worthy of a biography, but I am no Steve Jobs.
The value might still be for writing, though could have been even then a portfolio for specific subjects of study, such as geography, history, art, filming and writing. In these respects it still is.
Then it becomes an aid to the construction of ideas and the development of knowledge.
Personally, if I wanted to build on my knowledge of meteorology I would start with my Sixth Form classes with Mr Rhodes. I may have some of the newspaper cuttings I kept then of weather systems and may even being able to put some of these to photographs. I have a record of the 1987 Hurricane over Southern England for example.
I might tap into a Physics text book I first opened when I was 14 and recuperating at home from a broken leg.
There are those we know who have stored digitally the product of their illegal behaviour – paedophiles who are hoisted by their own petard when their digital record is recovered or identified. There may always be images that you may never want stored for later retrieval – a scene in a horror film that captures your attention before you flick channels, worse a real car accident … even making the mistake of clicking on footage of the hanging of Saddam Hussian. The image will be even less likely to be wiped from your memory if you have it stored somewhere.
Google, Facebook and other sites and services are not the only ones to capture a digital record of our behaviours – as I know if I write about and publish the activities of others.
Fig. 4. ‘Total capture’, as we ought to call it, could be the digital equivalent of hoarding
Sensors on and in you will know not only about your body, but your environment: the location, temperature, humidity, sound levels, proximity to wireless devices, amount of light, and air quality. (Bell and Gemmel, 2009 p.217)
Just because we can, does not mean that we should. Bell has a record of such minutiae as when he blew his nose – he has too given the detail of what he captures. I know of someone with an obsessive disorder who keeps the paper tissues he uses to blow his nose.
For what purpose?
A data grab of Ridley Scott or some other director as they plan, develop and create a movie might be a fascinating and rich journey that would serve an apprentice well. A detailed recovery from an illness or accident too. There are problems for which a comprehensive digital capture could be a helpful, valid and possible response. How about wearable underpants that monitor your activity and heat up if you need to exercise – eHot Pants ?! Better still, a junior doctor who has to cram a great deal may extract parts of lessons. However, who or what will have structured these into bite–sized pieces for consumption? Is there a programme that could be written to understand what to grab then offer back? But who would pose the testing question? Or can AI do this? From a set of question types know how to compose one using natural language and create a workable e-tivity such as those produced by Qstream (were SpacedEd).
Fig.5. Watching students of the SCA at work I wonder how life-logging would assist or get in the way.
Reflection in working is a way to think through what they are learning – a grabbed record of kit on their person cannot construct this for them. Without a significant edit it would be cumbersome to review. In a digital format though it could be edited and offered back to aid review. Would the return of the bad or weak idea be disruptive or distracting? It could infect the unconscious. Would there not need to be a guide on how to use this log in the context given the outcomes desired? They can’t be up all night doing it.
Fig. 6 Age 17, for one month, I became a hoarder of a kind, of the pre-digital keep a record of everything kind.
A diarist already, starting a new school, back at home from boarding school and a new life opening up – so I kept bus and theatre tickets, sweet wrappers too. And when I sat down in the late evening to write the day I did so onto sheets of paper I could file. With no parameters I soon found myself writing for two hours. September 1978 is a book. Would a few lines a day, every day, in the tiny patch of a space in an off the shelf Five Year diary do? It would have to.
An exchange trip got the file treatment.
And a gap year job of five months was a photo-journal – one file. And then the diary resorted to one page of A4 in a hardback book. This self selection matters. It makes possible the creation of an artificial record or ‘memory’. The way content is gathered and stored is part of the context and the narrative, and by working within reasonable parameters it leaves the content, in 1980-1990 terms, manageable.
I have letters from parents, grandparents and boyhood ‘girlfriends’ from the age of 8 to 18 … and a few beyond.
Perhaps science and maths should have been the root to take? If there is value in reflection it is how I might support my children as they have to make subject choices, choices over universities and their careers beyond. Seeing this I am more likely show empathy to any young person’s plight.
Fig. 7. A boy’s letter home from Mowden Hall School. Presumably Sunday 14th July 1974 as we wrote letters home after morning Chapel. I can see it now, in Mr Sullivan’s Room, French. Mr Farrow possibly on duty. His nose and figures yellow from the piper he smoked … looks like I would have been younger. He never did turn up on Saturday … or any school fixture. Ever. See? The pain returns.
I have letters I wrote too. I feel comfortable about the letters I wrote going online, but understandably shouldn’t ‘publish’ the long lost words of others. I might like to use the affordances of a blog or e-portfolio, but in doing so I would, like Gordon Bell, keep the lock tightly fixed on ‘Private’. Is it immoral to digitise private letters, even those written to you. How will or would people respond to you if they suspected you would scan or photograph everything, load it somewhere and by doing so risk exposing it to the world or having it hacked into.
People do things they regret when relationships fall apart – publishing online all the letters or emails or texts or photos they ever sent you?
Putting online anything and everything you have that you did together? Laws would very quickly put a dent in the act of trying to keep a digital record. In the changing rooms of a public swimming pool? In the urinals of a gents toilets? It isn’t hard to think of other examples of where it is inappropriate to record what is going on. I hit record when my wife was giving birth – when she found out she was upset. I’ve listened once and can understand why the trauma of that moment should be forgotten as the picture of our baby daughter 30 minutes later is the one to ‘peg’ to those days.
Selection will be the interface between events
What is grabbed, how is it tagged, recalled and used? Selection puts the protagonist in a life story back in control, rather than ‘tagging’ a person and automatically and comprehensively recording everything willy-nilly.
We don’t simply externalise an idea to store it, we externalise ideas so that they can be shared and potentially changed. Growing up we learn a variety of skills, such as writing, drawing or making charts not simply to create an analogue record, but as a life skill enabling communications with others. Modern digital skills come into this too.
Just because there is a digital record of much that I have done, does not mean I don’t forget.
If many others have or create such a digital record why should it prevent them from acting in the present? A person’s behaviour is a product of their past whether or not they have a record of it. And a record of your past may either influence you to do more of the same, or to do something different. It depends on who you are.
The memory is the mind process happening in your brain, it can never be the artefact that plays back footage of an experience.
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- The idea of gathering a substantial part of one’s life experience fascinates me, as it has often inspired others (mymindbursts.com)
- Brandon Turbeville ~ ‘Better Than Cash Alliance’ Backed By Bill Gates To Usher In Cashless Society (shiftfrequency.com)
- Why I Use Pen and Paper Notebooks AND Digital Tools To Take Notes (bethkanter.org)
- The power to remember and the need to forget (mymindbursts.com)
- Our Digital Selves (nytimes.com)
- I Should Have Kept a Diary As a Child (write-2-be.com)
- From Memory Scarcity to Memory Abundance (thefrailestthing.com)
- Automatically Augmenting Lifelog Events Using Pervasively Generated Content from Millions of People (mymindbursts.com)
- Lifelogging and Self Quantization : the good and the bad (gelnior.wordpress.com)
- Nobody knows what Digital Curation is. But they’re all doing it. (digitalcollaboration.wordpress.com)
- Gordon Bell at Microsoft