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How more deeply embedded is a visual memory if you crafted the drawing or painting that is the catalyst for its recall.

Fig.1. Hockney on iPad. Now here’s a lifelog to treasure. How does the master i-paint?

If a moment is to be captured, maybe David Hockney has the answer with a iBrush painting on an iPad. This is closer to the truth of a moment, seen through the artist’s being, their psychological and physiological approach to what they both see and perceive in front of them.

When we do we form a real memory of the actions required to undertake a task. We build on our initial attempts. The memory to ski, to dance, to swim, to skip, to ride a bicycle, to write, to draw, to pay a musical instrument – these cannot be caught by a complex collection of digital recording devices. Perhaps if the player wore a total bodysuit as actors do to play CGI generated character then we’d have a record of the memory of this experience. It wouldn’t a digital memory make – just a record.

The Semantic Web aims to standardize transmission and translation of information, is an important effort in this area. (Bell and Gemmel, 2009 p. 220 )

Is it really necessary, possible or desirable to take the moronic  qualities of sports coverage and impose it on a person going about their every day and far less eventful day. This is the premise for a comedy sketch. (Bell and Gemmel, 2009. p. 224)

Fig. 2.  How we learn. Conceptualised in SimpleMinds while taking the Open University Masters in Open and Distance Education.

All praise to the blogger Mark Stewart but does such a record need to be entertaining to gain validity and so a place in Digital Lives  at the British Library. (Bell and Gemmel, 2009. p. 225)

Though remembering and talking through a difficult time can also offer its solution. However, these is a difference between hoarding the memory or keeping it to yourself, and letting it go. The wrong memories permanently on recall will be multiple albatrosses.

Take WW1 veterans, or any war veterans, some want to tell, some went to bury. Why should people in the future feel obliged to record it all, to have more than enough to bring it back?

As written language is such a recent phenomenon it is perhaps not the best or even the most natural way to remember.

Going back we had the drawn image and the spoken word, but never the absolute of a panoramic or 360 digital picture, but rather moment filtered through the mind and expressed at the fingertips as a painting or drawing.

Fig. 3. Web 1.0 invigorated by Web 2.0 into a water-cycle of, appropriately, clouds.

Weather systems and water courses, urban run–off and transpiration.

Here the flotsam and jetsam of web content, the good, the bad, the ugly and ridiculous, the massive, the moving, the invaluable as well as the ephemera, is agitated, mixed–up and circulated, viewed, pinched, reborn, mashed up, bashed up or left to atrophy – but it is in the mix and open for business. Find it and the thought, or image, or sound bite,  the message, the idea is yours to dwell upon and utilise. It is education, revelation and knowledge of a new order. Expect more of the same and the unexpected.

 

Date stamps on digitized photos are an irrelevance

Fig. 1. Current reading 

Throughout Bell and Gemmel (2009)  say there will be a revolution then on p.172 says ‘we will gradually adapt’. The shape of things is evolving, in different places at different rates.

The Arab Spring was a technology enabled revolution, the uptake of smartphone and tablets is not, it is a well defined diffusion of innovation (Rogers, 2005). The progress of lifelogging, if it can even be tracked as it is an ill-defined hotchpotch of concepts, kit and technology may already have come and gone, already surpassed by a myriad of services and behaviours related to these smartphones snd tablet and hundreds of thousands of Apps.

That a digital camera stamps the date and time – these for recall are the least important factors. What, where and who is far more important. What were you up to, where were you and who were you with?

Digitizing memorabilia is what this so called ‘revolution’ is all about, a kind of recycling with digitization in between. (Bell and Gemmel, 2009 pp. 180)

I have emptied some shelves by chucking printed books and replaces those I read with eBooks.

The next step, courtesy of a Fujitsu ScanSnap will be to start to empty a lockup garage of books and papers – having a dozen unsold have written novels, screenplays and TV series will do my head in just to see them again, but ‘better out than in’ these unpublished and unsold pieces of work, certainly completed manuscripts, may even find a buyer. I’ve done one swoop through the garage with a digital camera just to see what is there – the hard back books will be tricky as ownership of shelves of books is something of a way of life in parts of our family.

I have bought eBooks so as not to be encumbered with some of my favourites and I find as a result I refer to them far more often.

This isn’t total recall or life-bits though, just a fraction, of the tiniest fraction. Enough to make a difference, but hardly innovative. What have law firms, management firms and accountancy firms sent the last 15 years doing? digitizing all their records and all their client’s  records. Big time digital repositories already exist on a massive, professional, industrial and institutional level, with museums and libraries following. And if not already, someone like Barrack Obama perhaps, will have his life celebrated in a library or foundation which could very well contain more in digital form than in print.

Five seconds is all it takes to capture the ambiance of the moment, writes Bell   some four years before Twitter launch their six second video service. (Bell and Gemmel, 2009 p.188)

Like needles in a hay bale, I used to think, a decade ago, naively as it turns out, that the best place to loose important content was in an untagged webpage.

I saw readership figures, but spoke only ever to a tiny number of people – only years later did I figure that of course plenty of the hundreds had read about a friend, or themselves. And out of the blue, 33 years after a the event, a girl I met on a French exchange trip found me and asked if I would delete a scan of a drawing I had done of her – I did so, but know that various archiving packages grabbed this and at the last count some 100 out of 1500+pages which will in all likelihood be somewhere forever.

We know now too that indiscrete idiots who Tweet or something that may be terrorist related, criminal or libelous will be identified, arrested and potentially fined or jailed. Putting content online is publishing, just as it was in the past to get over a dozen barriers to have yourself appear in print.

I have this bizarre image of a lifelog that actually records the where the molecules that are you are and how they will always have filled those places at a particular time throughout your life – tracking these molecules after life is perhaps a duller and less savoury affair.

Nathan Myhrvold, former chief technology officer at Microsoft, founder Intellectual Ventures, believes that only the software creator’s imagination limits what hardware can provide. (Bell and Gemmel, 2009 p. 215)

 

The reality is that our digital world long ago washed over the concept of an e-memory.

Fig. 1. Tablets are the university in the pocket.

Bell and Gemmel (2009) need to imagine the future beyond the lens of life-logging and e-memories. What else will be developing at just as fast a rate. Where will Google and Apple be in our lives?

Fundamentally though, is this view that a recording of what is going on around someone forms any kind of memory at all. Of far greater value is how a personalised capture of an event, assisted by technology, becomes additional support to someone as they learn.

A student who hasn’t prepared for an exam is imagined calling upon all kinds of records to get her straight – would someone who had done so little and left it so late have any desire to go to this effort now?

Much of what Bell describes isn’t a sound e-memory construct either, it is simply searching, grabbing, downloading, adding links and collecting references that may have personal attributes to them.

It simply doesn’t wash that anyone would need say to refer to the way they dealt with a problem in the past when they can just as readily call up the solutions of a myriad of others. Anyone can imagine the perfect use of an imaginary service or product – this doesn’t validate it. Where are the patterns that show this happening in this way.

The reality is that our digital world long ago washed over the concept of a e-memory.

An e-memory or automatic logging is not reflection – the gathering process as Bell and Gemmel (2009)  conceives it requires no control over how information is gathered – the user may actually not even recognise the events that are played back. How could a sports coach possibly get a better view from a camera snapping images every 22 seconds of say a soccer match or squad of swimmers possibly make the choices or get the level of detail he picks up with his own eyes.

Instead of indulgently and obsessively digitising everything in sight like a 21st century transporter, Bell should have been constructing research based on the use of e-learning devices and software and giving them out to thousands of users to conduct trials. He wrongly assumes that his family and the passing on of family heirlooms is clearly like every other.

He hadn’t foreseen the creation of hundreds of thousands of Apps.

Bell and Gemmel (2009. p. 141) assume that this lifelog will preserve an image of a loved one we would want to keep. But when would we ever see them? They the camera. And where would be get, and should we have access to the lifelogs of others who will have caught out loved one in shot?

Digital content, like its liquid equivalent in a digital ocean, has an extraordinary ability to leak out.

Gordon Bell

Gordon Bell (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Fig.1. Gordon Bell, ready for action – lifelogging for a decade

The biggest problem with lifelogging as it is conceived of by Gordon Bell (2009)  is that the camera points away from the protagonist rather than at them.

Far better the record of the person’s facial expressions as they go about their daily business as an indication of what is going on their minds – which is otherwise impossible to suggest unless a running commentary is offered. Though of course, the contribution of the running commentary, let alone the wearing of the device and its being on changes the record. This cannot therefore be an objective documentary record, as if a zoological research study. And then, what do you legally do with images you get not just outside, but inside the someone’s house.

This content is implicitly for private and singular consumption only, but it would pick up images that others could use in illicit ways.

Fig. 2. The Point, Beadnell. A memory forever for my encounters with nature on this stick of rock pointing into the North Sea.

Digital content, like its liquid equivalent in a digital ocean, has an extraordinary ability to leak out.

I don’t believe Bell’s attitudes regarding privacy are headed for extinction, but some people will choose to keep as much as possible private while others will go to great lengths to expose and disclose everything – in both situations there is for better and for worse. (Bell and Gemmel, 2009 p. 213)

If 10,000 asthmatics revealed their health related lifelog in real time how soon would researchers be able to act on this? If alcoholics wore a lifelog would their drinking stop and certainly drink-driving be over forever? What a field day psychologists would have and what they would learn about all kinds of things such as depression, bipolar or ADHD.

Bell introduces us to a Speechome where a couple have turned their house in the set of the TV show Big Brother, with cameras everywhere. (Bell and Gemmel 2006. p. 114)

Their son hasn’t had a choice – there is a ‘total record’ of his development over this period. Is it right to use your own child in this way? And can a record such as this be called a ‘corpus’ ? It isn’t a scientific study, just a CCTV record. This is where Bell’s language is, throughout, skewed in favour of the system and methodologies he is expounding. He would do far greater justice to his actions if his record where the subject of academic study, the publication of peer review and therefore the release to academics of the record he has kept. Someone will volunteer this if he won’t.

Part of our era is the sharing and connectivity of information and the way it is transformed through collective experience and comment … even trailblasing many others to do the same.

Fig. 3 Stephen Gough the bloke who refused to put any clothes on – anywhere, ever. A form of obsession.

There is a character from Scotland who insists on living his life naked.

He is consequently arrested repeatedly. It strikes me, I’m afraid that Gordon Bell might be evangelical about being naked … but will keep his clothes on. Like an omnivore selling the virtues of veganism, while eating everything under the sun. Or will Bells 10/15 year lifelog be released to researchers on his death?

‘Most of us are well along the path to outsourcing our brains to some form or e-memory’. Bell says (2009. p 119).

Should we scrutinise this for some scientific value? ‘Most of us …’ meaning?

From a study of 1000, or 2000 people.

Who, where do they live, what is their educational background?

Their access to digital kit and networks? Are they representative of the 6 billion on the planet, or just a community of Silicon Valley Computer engineers? ‘Most of us … ‘ implies that this could be the self-selecting readership of the book. Who would read it if they could empathise? ‘Well along the path’ implies that already there is a groundswell, a desired adoption of these kinds of technologies.
On what basis is this to be believed?

Are there are number of ‘diffusion of innovation’ studies current in order to measure this? What is the benchmark? What are the parameters of the path?

‘Our brains’ – by what definition either ‘ours’ or even ‘brains’.

A living organ cannot be outsourced can it? This isn’t like making a donation to a sperm bank. There is no means to store any component of our brains nor has anything more that a gallery of images or a storage space for documents yet been developed. There is no electronic memory. Even if you want to call a relational database on a hard drive an e-memory it cannot be – no amount of juggling the electronic pack of cards will turn an audio file, a still image or video into the memory. Indeed, the only possible association with a memory is when someone looks at them and a memory forms in their mind – and what is more, anyone at all, looking at or hearing or viewing these records will also form memories. i.e. they are the enablers of memory recall, or thought creation, they are a catalyst, but they can never be the memory.

The idea of a ‘world brain’ that acts as a perfect memory prosthesis to humans is not new.

Fig. 1 H G Wells 

In the late 1930s, British science fiction writer H. G. Wells wrote about a “world brain” through which “the whole human memory can be [ .  .  .  ] made accessible to every individual.” Mayer-Schönberger (2011. p. 51)

I think to keep a lifelog is to invite sharing. It’s so Web 2.0.

It may be extreme, but some will do it, just as people keep a blog, or post of a picture taken every day for a year or more. The value and fears of such ‘exposure’ on the web have been discussed since the outset. There are new ways of doing things, new degrees of intimacy.

‘Obliterating the traditional distinction between information seekers and information providers, between readers and authors, has been a much-discussed quality since the early days of the Internet’. Mayer-Schönberger (2011. p. 83)

‘By using digital memory, our thoughts, emotions, and experiences may not be lost once we pass away but remain to be used by posterity. Through them we live on, and escape being forgotten’. Mayer-Schönberger (2011. p. 91)

At a faculty level I have twice created blogs for the recently deceased.

Fig. Jack Wilson MM 1938

It was with greater sadness that I did so with my own parents with my father in 2001 and my mother in 2012. While, by recording interviews with my late grandfather I moved close to the conception of a digital expression of a person. It doesn’t take much to imagine a life substantially ‘lifelogged’ and made available in various forms – a great tutor who continues to teach, a move loved grandparent or partner to whom you may still turn …

Source: wikihow.com via Peter on Pinterest

 

Fig. 3. Bell and Gemmel  imagines lifelogs of thousands of patients used to in epidemiological survey. (Bell and Gemmell, 2009. p. 111)

This has legs. It ties in with a need. It related to technologies being used to managed patients with chronic illnesses. It ties in to the training of clinicians too.

 

 

Is lifelogging a solution on the lookout for a problem?

Fig. 1. A hundred cards in a hundred days. Away from my fiancee I gave up the diary and posted her one of these every day.

I’m from a generation where we have a record in letters. Does a digital record simply enable more ofthe same kind of thing?

It is true that the worth grows as they years pass, that to know what you were doing a year, three years, ten years or two decades ago at least puts a rye smile on your face.

‘If you have ever tried reading an old diary entry of yours from many years ago, you may have felt this strange mixture of familiarity and foreignness, of sensing that you remember some, perhaps most, but never all of the text’s original meaning’. Mayer-Schönberger (2011. p. 34).

Which is why Bell’s approach my diminish the mind, not enhance it.

The mind reworks a memory every time it is relived – it isn’t the same memory when it reforms on a shelf in your mind. Whereas Bell’s ‘memory’ sits their unchanging. Crucially it lacks the mental context, connections and connotations of the person. Indeed, it isn’t a memory at all, it is simply a digital record snapped by a device. Afterall, it is a false input – lacking the filter of the person’s eyes and senses. The laziness of such a lifelog has serious flaws. Just because it can be done, does not mean that it should be. If it is to be done, then it should be research led, or as part of a problem solving, outcome driven project. Supporting those with dementia or cognitive disabilities, aiding those recovering from a stroke …

Is lifelogging a solution on the lookout for a problem?

Forgetfulness Bell and Gemmell, 2009. p. 52) doesn’t sound like a worthy cause, better to learn to remember, better to enjoy and use those around you – family and friends. Alzheimer’s disease is a cause. Parkinson’s too. Possibly those with cognitive problems. Could lifelogging be an assistive technology for those prone to forget? Does the lifelog to such a person become the calculator to anyone struggling with more the simple arithmetic? A prosthesis to their mind?

What might we learn from diaries and blogs?

Who has benefitted from these? What therefore might we gain from a lifelog? It matters who is the lifelogger. However, the lifelog by the very nature of keeping one, impacts on the life. You don’t want to keep a diary and do nothing. It invites you to be adventurous. On the other hand, it may invite you to live within the laws of the land, and moral laws.

Would Pepys have kept a lifelog?

 

 

The diffusion and use of innovations is complex – like people.

Fig. 1 Who’s the digital native which one is the immigrant? 

There is no evidence to support any suggestion that there was ever such a group as a ‘digital native’ and it is sensationalist claptrap or lazy  journalism to talk of ‘millenials’ – there aren’t any. The research shows the complex and human reality. It is not generational.  (Kennedy et al, 2009., Jones et al. 2010., Bennett and Maton., 2010) I’m not the only father who knows more and does more online than his kids – we had computers at university in the mid-1980s and in the office within a decade.

Bell and Gemmel fall for the falsehood of the ‘Millenials’. (2009. p. 19)

Fig.2. The devices we use do not split us across generations.

On digital natives or millenials add that behaviours supposedly attributable only to this younger generation are also evident in anyone using these tools and devices – the digitally literate is impatient and is easily distracted.

This applies to anyone who spends much time online. It is not age, gender or race related. We all fidget if downloads are slow or we lose a signal. We’re just being people. It is not generational. Rather behaviours with this tools reflects who we are, not what the kit affords.

Fig. 3. Whether you were born before or after this arrival doesn’t make a jot of difference.

So you here anyone calling our parents the ‘TV generation’, or the generation before that the ‘Wireless Generation’. It is shorthand that   is harmless until it is used to define policy.

They refer to those born between 1982 and 2001 as a homogenous cohort, as if they are all born into families where they will have access to gadgets and later the internet as a birthright. The figures given by Bell and Gemmel (2009) stick to those in North America – just the US or Canada too?  So what if a few become software millionaires. Others aren’t getting jobs at all. And there are plenty of other ways to earn a crust.

Of the 70 million they talk about how many have been interviewed?

When it comes to the use of various online tools and platforms what actually is their behaviour? Its the same behaviour they’d show out in the real world, at school or in the shopping-mall, making and losing friends. And when it comes to blogging, who knows what is going on. The authors assume (2009. p 20) that there is some kind of truth in what people post – that in my experience blogging for many hours a day since 1999 is far, far from that. Indeed finding the honest voice is the one in 30,000.

There is a considerable degree of fakery, and blatant fiction.

I am reminded of the entirely fictitious ‘Online Caroline’ of a decade ago. She posted a sophisticated blog for the era, with photos and video chat. Like Orson Wells following an audience over the invasion of earth this blog had people calling the police when Caroline’s CCTV supposedly logged someone nicking stuff from her flat.

Bell and Gemmel (2009) talk about lifelogging as a panacea.

Fig. 4. The context in which we learn

There are lessons and techniques that have their place. In fact we’re doing a lot of it already. Through several devices or one we are recording, snapping, storing, sharing, loading, compiling, curating, mixing and remembering.

Every example given is a positive, a selected moment on which to build … what about the times of heartache and memory, of parent’s arguments and childhood bullying. Do we want those? If trying a cigarette, getting drunk, being caught in the open with a dodgy stomach or vomiting?

The authors, Gordon Bell and Gemmel (2009) as well as  Viktor Mayer-Schönberger  (2009)  consider four issues in relation to the creation of digital memories:

  1. Record (digitization)
  2. Storage (cheap)
  3. Recall (easy)
  4. Global Access (Mayer-Schönberger, 2009. p. 14)

A fifth should be how this content is managed and manipulated, how selections are made and how it is edited and fed back to the content’s owner, or how it forms another person’s memory when picked up and mashed online.

As (Mayer-Schönberger, 2009. p. 16) puts it, to cope with the sea of stimuli, our brain uses multiple levels of processing and filtering before committing information to long-term memory .

Could decluttering the hoarders house be achieved by creating for them a digital archive and putting everything else in the bin?   

Human Memory

Fig. 5. How we forget. And where software and tools can play a part to help us remember – to create more memories and better recall. 

We forget (perhaps an implicit result of the second law of thermodynamics).  (Mayer-Schönberger, 2009. p. 21) Or a fact. A neuroscientist needs to get engaged at this stage. What IS going on in there?

Let’s say that memory formation could be liken to the aggregation of coral.

This memory has had no opportunity to fix in this way if it is a snap-shot of the an impression of a moment detached from its context – what was going in, how the person was feeling, what they thought of the events, how these would colour and shape their memory .

We are prone to mis-attribute

Language is a recently recent phenomenon (Mayer-Schönberger, 2009. p. 23) Should we therefore remember in images?

Painting dates back some 30,000 years. The written language is even more recent (6000 years ago) as pictographs became cuneiform became an alphabet –  so would an oral tradition be of more value?

REFERENCE

Bell, G., and Gemmel. J (2009)  Total Recall: How the E-Memory Revolution Will Change Everything

Bennett, S, & Maton, K (2010), ‘Beyond the “Digital Natives” Debate: Towards a More Nuanced Understanding of Students’ Technology Experiences’,Journal Of Computer Assisted Learning, 26, 5, pp. 321-331, ERIC, EBSCOhost, (viewed 13 Dec 2012).

Jones C., Ramanaua R., Cross S. & Healing G. (2010) Net generation or Digital Natives: is there a distinct new generation entering university? Computers and Education 54, 722–732.

Kennedy G., Dalgarno B., Bennett S., Gray K., Waycott J., Judd T., Bishop A., Maton K., Krause K. & Chang R. (2009) Educating the Net Generation – A Handbook of Findings for Practice and Policy. Australian Learning and Teaching Council. Available at: http://www.altc.edu.au/ system/files/resources/CG6-25_Melbourne_Kennedy_ Handbook_July09.pdf (last accessed 19 October 2009).

Mayer-Schönberger, V (2009) Delete: The Virtue of Forgetting in the Digital Age

 

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