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H809 Tutor Marked Assignment QQs on scope, sense cam and blogging

Blogging

The idea of looking behind blogging came from the reading … but did I reference it???

i.e that innovations never occur in isolation, there was always something else beforehand.

The mistake we all make is to assume that innovations land on a pristine landscape and we react with typically human surprise at this new marvel that will either revolutionise or destroy everything. I need to remember where I read that!

Something on innovations … eeek.

It does matter though, with blogs there is clearly a history of

a) keeping a diary

b) citizen journalism in the form of leaflets and ‘letters to the editor’

c) authors keeping a writer’s journal and

b) scientists and explorers keeping a formal ‘log’.

That and human nature to write stuff down – well, at least 1% of the population do, which gives the other 99% something to read.

Life Logging

Sense Cam came out of the efforts of Gordon Bell, now 81, and for the last 10 years head of research at Microsoft.

He got it into his head to digitise everything and then wear a gadget around his neck to capture even more. This seems moronic and his own writing isn’t academic, more a memoir, but others, Microsoft and University of Southampton, have pressed on. The Sense Cam is a fag-packet sized device you hang around your neck – a camera with a light and sound sensor, then triggers the taking of a picture as you go about your daily business (could be awkward). At the end of the day these pictures are downloaded and software filters the stuff.

Southampton (WebSciences) have examples of this.

You can now buy a SenseCam made by Microsoft and various Microsoft Research Labs are trying them out. The hope is that in time such a device will help support those with dementia or any kind of memory fade … the evidence from Southampton illustrate Ebbinghaus’s ‘Forgetting Curve’ – how we forget stuff pretty fast over days/weeks against use of various methods, including a Sense Cam. It does appear, naturally, that looking back regularly at a set of carefully selected pictures (I think there has be human intervention for obvious reasons) the patient/student subject is far better able to recall, retain, and therefore I presume to restore and ‘fix’ memories better.

I am starting to wonder if a person is indicating for Alzheimer’s or some such that they might use such a device ?

Or the Google Glass device to do the same thing. If I were a first year medical student doing my disection I’d like to use a sense cam to personalise a record of the activity, for example.

If I go down the blogging route ‘is blogging a valid activity for student assessment’ is far too broad while ‘Can blogging by students of journalism writing in English in Hong Kong be used as a formal part of assessment’ might be doable. Off the top of my head here, but let’s say there are 4 to 6 colleges where such a course is offered in Hong Kong …

So what about a geographically defined study?

China might be problematic due to restrictions on use of the Internet (and its vast size). Perhaps Poland!? Somewhere where the numbers aren’t huge. Then again, doesn’t it depend on the methods and tools you use? I am struck by this stuff they call ‘Big Data’ where a cohort of 10,000 on an Open Course (this at Stanford using Coursera) can reveal the nuances of ‘poor teaching’ – where in the past 1 or 2 students made the same mistake it goes unnoticed, but when 2000 students make the very same mistake then there’s clearly something wrong with the course.

To use Diana Laurillard’s apt phrase ‘it depends’. (don’t ask me where or when she said it, if you know, please tell me so that I can reference it correctly).

 

I cannot through words share with my mother our collective memories, I cannot do a ‘mind transfusion’.



Fig. 1  My parents – and a fraction of the record we have of left of them now that they are gone.

My mother had a stroke.

She would die within three months and after a second stroke very poor comprehension and ability to communicate will get very much worse. I cannot become an expert in care for a stroke victim overnight, but I read enough and ask questions. We find two ways ‘in’ – song and images. The images are never of people – various sparks of joyous recognition come when we are seen in the flesh and behave like children rather than adults in our 40s and 50s. I cannot through words share with my mother our collective memories, I cannot do a ‘mind transfusion’. I cannot even talk about things we did a year or ten years ago – I sense the time is irrelevant, she is as likely to recall her first doll as she is our last visit to the Royal Academy of Arts to enjoy Van Gogh’s Letters. A visit where she gently nurtured the interest of her 13 year old granddaughter, sharing insights between the letters, sketches and paintings from the point of view of an artist and art teacher and art historian, to a bright girl who liked to draw.

A mouthful of the food from the Fortnum and Mason’s restaurant might have triggered her memory – we did treat her to various foods.

What worked, in defiance of the medical reports that essentially said ‘there is nothing there’ was an iPad loaded with images grabbed from a number of hefty art books – 20th century art, the Van Gogh exhibition book and pictures from the Louvre. I spoke to that part of her that I might work. I challenged her as I showed the pictures to say when the letter had been written or why was Van Gogh so keen to tell his brother what he was up to. And what was the name of Van Gogh’ s brother? I got through Van Gogh and contemporary artists then moved onto the Louvre.

Up comes the Mona Lisa.

‘Where is this painting? We’ve seen it. It was so small?’

And she replied, ‘Louvre’.

‘Where’s that?’ I asked.

‘Paris’ she said.

Perhaps had my mother been in her sixties we and she could have seen a way to perceive with this.

Would a lifelog have got to this point in under 15 minutes? Might a screen of fast moving images offered in spaced-out way, with eye-tracking identify that ‘glimmer’ of recognition that would then prioritise images in the same set? Though who would know why a set was being favoured? We associate images with feelings, and people, and places, not with a set book or date or necessarily a genre of work.

Fig. 2. I think in pictures. But have to communicate in words. I wonder if a stream of pictures, as Tumblrs do, is a better record of our thoughts?

I think Bell has shown how we can freeze content from the digital ocean without knowing what value it will bring.

Perhaps from such an iceberg or glacier, at a later date, we can mine such event sparking artifacts that call up a memory as indicated above. But this artifact is not the memory and never can be. We should applaud Bell and others for going beyond thinking about such massive data collections, the ‘world brain og H G Wells or the Memex of Vannevar Bush.

 

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.

Dreams of technology enhanced learning as a micro-chipped jelly-fish in a digital ocean

Fig. 1. I visualised the biological and digitised memory as a huge, translucent jellyfish.

It is a deliberate exercise to fall asleep with a book or eBook in my hands and in my head. This may even be a mid-evening exercise lasting between 20 and 45 minutes. It works if I remember what goes on and then write it down. There’s no way this can be digitally grabbed.

In the skin of the jellyfish there is a microchip. This microchip represents the digital record, the stamp like artefact that is a snap of time, a set of images, a sound-bite, a record of the creatures physiological outputs. The rest of the creature is what isn’t capture – the tendrils of the jellyfish the synapses that connect the bulk of the creature memories that defy definition.

It isn’t a digital memory. The visual or sensory capture is a fraction of what forms the memory.

Not is memory static. It is forming and reforming, diminishing, refreshing and fracturing all the time. To grab a ‘memory’ is to capture and box a set of impossibly complex electro-chemical reactions. It is multi-dimentional too – when I see the Royal Cinema, I feel a sticky ice-lolly stick on my neck, I smell the fusty, cigarette-smoke embedded chairs and here the announcement of the serial. And what I see is filtered through my mind’s eye, not a lense.

I don’t see it in high definition.

There are three kinds of memory: (Bell and Gemmell, 2009. p. 53)

  • Procedural (muscle memory)
  • Semantic (facts that you know that aren’t rooted in time and place)
  • Episodic (autobiographical)

Perhaps if I am going to wear a gadget around my neck it should record something I cannot see or sense?

At a different wavelength or spectrum. i.e. telling me something I don’t know.

‘Biological memory is subjective, patchy, emotion-tinged, ego-filtered, impressionistic, and mutable. Digital memory is objective, disappassionate, prosaic, and unforgivingly accurate’. (Bell and Gemmel, 2009. p. 56)

The first is a memory the second is not. Bell appears to think that ‘memory’ is an artefact that is capable of a digital record – it is not. Nothing that MyLifeBits has done is a record of a memory – it is simply stuff digitised. For something to be called a ‘digital memory’ then it will need to have the attributes of its biological and analogue form.

A memory is a product of our lapses and distractions.

It matters that we daydream, as well as focus. It matters that what we see or experience once needs to be experienced a second, third and fourth time so that meaning aggregates and our minds adapt. What Bell is describing is a massive, relentless, comprehensive attempt at keeping a diary. Would it not be more useful to hire a personal assitance? If you have the wealth to support it have, like Winston Churchill, a secretary at hand to take dictation? This has to be a close proximity to the record of a memory as it is formed?  

With the written word came libraries.

‘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 foreigness, of sensing that you remember some, perhaps most, but never all of the text’s original meaning’. (Mayer-Schönberger, 2009. p. 33)

On Gordon Bell – his goal is nothing short of obliterating forgetting. (Mayer-Schönberger, 2009. p. 50)

I wonder if the quest to make an Artificial Intelligence like the human mind will be a more fruitful one that trying to turn a human mind into a digital one? That adding AI attributes to a database will achieve more, than by thinking of the human as nothing more than a bipedal device from which to record external goings on?

 

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

 

The memory is the mind process happening in your brain, it can never be the artefact that plays back footage of an experience.


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.

REFERENCES

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

Blackmore, Y (2012) Virtual Health Coach. (accessed 28 Jan 2013 http://mobihealthnews.com/16177/study-virtual-coach-improves-activity-levels-for-overweight-obese/

Isaacson, Walter (2011). Steve Jobs: The Exclusive Biography (Kindle Locations 3421-3422). Hachette Littlehampton. Kindle Edition.

Ituma, A (2011), ‘An Evaluation of Students’ Perceptions and Engagement with E-Learning Components in a Campus Based University’,Active Learning In Higher Education, 12, 1, pp. 57-68, ERIC, EBSCOhost, viewed 13 December 2012.

Kandel, E. (2006) The Emergence of a New Science of Mind.

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

Myhrvold, N Princeton Alumni (accessed 29 Jan 2013 http://www.princeton.edu/pr/pwb/04/1122/ )

Schmandt-Besserat (1992) How Writing Came About.

Vernon, J.F. (2011) Life according to Anais Nin, Henry Miller and Samuel Pepys
(accessed 28 Jan 2013 http://mymindbursts.com/2011/08/13/1162/ )

W. Boyd Rayward Wells, H,G. World Brain.
http://people.lis.illinois.edu/~wrayward/HGWellsideaofWB_JASIS.pdf

Waybackmachine
http://archive.org/web/web.php

Wixted and Carpenter, (2006) “The Wickelgren Power Law and the Ebbinghaus Savings Function,” 133– 34.

 

 

The idea of gathering a substantial part of one’s life experience fascinates me, as it has often inspired others


Fig. 1. Hands by Escher.

The danger is for it to become one’s modus operandi, that the act of gathering is what you become. I recall many decades ago, possibly when I started to keep a diary when I was 13, a documentary – that can no doubt now be found on the Internet – on a number of diarists. There were not the well-known authors or celebrity politicians, but the obscure keeper of the heart beat, those who would toil for two hours a day writing about what they had done, which was to edit what they’d written about the day before … if this starts to look like a drawing by Escher then perhaps this illustrates how life-logging could get out of hand, that it turns you inside out, that it causes implosion rather than explosion. It may harm, as well as do good. We are too complex for this to be a panacea or a solution for everybody.

A myriad of book, TV and Film expressions of memory, its total recall, false recall, falsehoods and precisions abound. I think of the Leeloo in The Fifth Element learning about Human Kind flicking through TV Channels.

Fig. 2. Leeloo learns from TV what the human race is doing to itself

Always the shortcut for an alien to get into our collective heads and history. Daryl Hannah does it in Splash too. Digitisation of our existence, in part or total, implies that such a record can be stored (it can) and retrieved in an objective and viable way (doubtful). Bell (2009) offers his own recollections, sci-fi shorts and novels, films too that of course push the extremes of outcomes for the purposes of storytelling rather than seeking more mundane truth about what digitization of our life story may do for us.


Fig. 3. Swim Longer, Faster

There are valid and valuable alternatives – we do it anyway when we make a gallery of family photos – that is the selective archiving of digital memory, the choices over what to store, where to put it, how to share then exploit this data. I’m not personally interested in the vital signs of Gordon Bell’s heart-attack prone body, but were I a young athlete, a competitive swimmer, such a record during training and out of the pool is of value both to me and my coach.

I am interested in Gordon Bell’s ideas – the value added, not a pictoral record of the 12-20 events that can be marked during a typical waking day, images grabbed as a digital camera hung around his neck snaps ever 20-30 seconds, or more so, if it senses ‘change’ – gets up, moves to another room, talks to someone, browses the web … and I assume defecates, eats a meal and lets his eyes linger on … whatever takes his human fancy.

How do we record what the mind’s eye sees?

How do we capture ideas and thoughts? How do we even edit from a digital grab in front of our eyes and pick out what the mind is concentrating on? A simple click of a digital camera doesn’t do this, indeed it does the opposite – it obscure the moment through failing to pick out what matters. Add sound and you add noise that the mind, sensibly filters out. So a digital record isn’t even what is being remembered. I hesitate as I write – I here two clocks. No, the kitchen clock and the clicking of the transformer powering the laptop. And the wind. And the distant rumble of the fridge. This is why I get up at 4.00am. Fewer distractions. I’ve been a sound engineer and directed short films. I understand how and why we have to filter out extraneous noises to control what we understand the mind of the protagonist is registering. If the life-logger is in a trance, hypnotized, day dreaming or simply distracted the record from the device they are wearing is worse than an irrelevance, it is actually a false cue, a false record.

Fig. 4. Part of the brain and the tiniest essence of what is needed to form a memory

Mind is the product of actions within a biological entity. To capture a memory you’d have to capture an electro-chemical instance across hundreds of millions of synapses.


Fig. 5. Diving of Beadnell Harbour, 1949. My later mother in her teens.

An automatically harvested digital record must often camouflage what might have made the moment a memory. I smell old fish heads and I see the harbour at Beadnell where as a child fisherman brought in a handful of boats every early morning. What if I smell old fish as I take rubbish to recycle? Or by a bin down the road from a fish and chip shop. What do my eyes see, and what does my mind see?

I love the messiness of the human brain – did evolution see this coming?

In ‘Delete’ Mayer-Schönberger (2009. p. 1) suggests that forgetting, until recently was the norm, whereas today, courtesy of our digital existences, forgetting has become the exception.

I think we still forget – we don’t try to remember phone numbers and addresses as we think we have them in our phone – until we wipe or lose the thing. In the past we’d write them down, even make the effort to remember the things. It is this need to ‘make an effort’ to construct a memory that I fear could be discombobulated.

I’m disappointed though that Mayer-Schönberger stumbles for the false-conception ‘digital natives’ – this is the mistaken impression that there exists a generation that is more predisposed and able than any other when it comes to all things digital. Kids aren’t the only ones with times on their hands, or a passion for the new, or even the budget and will to be online. The empirical evidence shows that the concept of a digital native is unsound – there aren’t any. (Jones et al, 2010., Kennedy et al, 2009., Bennet and Maton, 2010., Ituma, 2011)

The internet and digital possibilities have not created the perfect memory. (Mayer-Schönberger 2009. p. 3)

To start with how do we define ‘memory’ ?

A digital record is an artefact, it isn’t what is remembered at all. Indeed, the very nature of memory is that it is different every time you recall a fact or an event. It becomes nuanced, and coloured. It cannot help itself.

Fig. 6. Ink drops as ideas in a digital ocean

A memory like drops of ink in a pond touches different molecules every time you drip, drip, drip. When I hear a family story of what I did as a child, then see the film footage I create a false memory – I think I remember that I see, but the perspective might be from my adult father holding a camera, or my mother retelling the story through ‘rose tinted glasses’.


Fig. 7. Not the first attempt at a diary, that was when I was 11 ½ . ‘A day in the life of … ‘ came to a close with breakfast after some 500 words.

I kept a diary from March 1973 to 1992 or so. I learnt to write enough, a few bullet points in a five year diary in the first years – enough to recall other elements of that day. I don’t need the whole day.

The power to remember and the need to forget

Fig 1. Your life? Remembered or forgotten?

Digitally record or better to delete?

INTRODUCTION

It frustrates me to try to read two complementary books e in two different formats – the first is marketed in its traditional hardback edition with a designer cover and eye-grabbing introduction from Bill Gates, while the second, an eBook I find understated – as if it is ashamed to compete. They are a pair. Twins separated at birth. They argue from opposite sides of the digital coin, one in favour of digitizing everything under the sun, the other for circumspection and deletion. Perhaps there should be a face off at the Oxford Union Debating Society. My role here is to bring them together and in doing so provide a one word conclusion: selection.

TOTAL RECALL

‘Total Recall’ (Bell and Gemmel, 2009) with its film-reference title and sensationalist headline ‘how the e-memory revolution will change everything’ risks ostracizing a discerning academic readership in favour of sales reputation and coining a phrase or two. It’s hero Gordon Bell might be the protagonist in the movie. The is is shame is that at the heart of what is more biography than academic presentation there is the desire to be taken seriously – a second edition could fix this – there needs to be a sequel. My copy of Total Recall arrived via trans-Atlantic snail mail in hardback, with it’s zingy dust jacket – it feels like a real book. I’m no bibliophile but I wonder if the pages are uncut and this edition has been pulled from a reject pile. It was discounted Amazon and as I’m after the words contained in the book rather than the physical artifact its state ought not to be a concern. Though the fact that it is a physical book rather pegs it to a bygone era. Total recall refers to the idea of a photographic or ‘eidetic memory’ – this needs to be stated.

Fig. 2. DELETE

‘Delete’ (2009) Viktor Mayer-Schönberger is subtitled ‘The Virtue of Forgetting in the Digital Age’ and sounds as if it was authored by a vampire from Transylvania. It is a foil to ‘Total Recall’ with Viktor the antagonist to ‘Flash Drive’ Gordon. Delete hasn’t been – its in its fourth printing, needless to say I got mine in seconds as a Kindle version. I only ever by a book if I have to. I am too used to the affordances of the eBook to skim, search, highlight and share – and to have it on multiple devices, the Kindle, iPad, laptop and smartphone.

The copyright notice in Total Recall on ‘the scanning, uploading, and distribution of this book via the Internet’ is ironic because this is what Bell does with his life – he has scanned and uploaded his life (though access is totally private). A double irony as he elects for Web 1.0 but won’t join the Semantic Web 2.0 and share.

I have been an exponent of ‘exposure’ – the release of a substantial part of who you are for others to chew over.

The online diary.

The way forward stands between the two, selective extreme gathering, storing and retrieval of your personal archive, while discretely deleting the irrelevant, possibly illegal (copyright, plagiarised, libel) and otherwise potentially reputationally damaging to kith or kin. (How can these be avoided if you wear a device around your neck that takes a digital snap every few seconds?)

They could be landform and landfill.

 

Automatically Augmenting Lifelog Events Using Pervasively Generated Content from Millions of People

English: This depicts the evolution of wearabl...

English: This depicts the evolution of wearable computers. See http://wearcam.org/steve5.htm for the original JPEG file. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Automatically Augmenting Lifelog Events Using Pervasively Generated Content from Millions of People

In the pursuit of pervasive user-generated content (ugc) based on senors, by augmenting visual lifelogs with ‘Web 2.0’ content collected by millions of other individuals.

We present a system that realises the aim of using visual content and sensor readings passively captured by an individual and then augmenting that with web content collected by other individuals. Doherty and Smeaton (2009)

  • Lifelogging, like keeping a diary, is a private and exclusive form of reverse surveillance. Doherty and Smeaton (2009)
  • Using SenseCam from Microsoft. Zacks (2006)
  • human memory operates by associating linked items together. Baddley (2004)
  • supportive of those patients suffering from early stage memory impairment. Berry e al (2009)
  • enhancing SenseCam gathered images by data mining from ugc sites such as Flickr and YouTube. Doherty and Smeaton (2009)
  • See also MyLifeBits. Bell and Gemmel (2007)
  • A commercial lifelogging product ViconRevue. OMG
  • Flickr has over 95 million geo-tagged images. (2010)
  • YouTube has 100 million video views per day (2010) YouTube fact_sheet

It has a camera and a range of other sensors for monitoring the wearer’s environment by detecting movement, temperature, light intensity, and the possible presence of other people in front of the device via body heat.

(I’d like the sensecam to be smaller still and include a microchip in a swimmer’s cap, or goggle or swimsuit to monitor various other factors, including heart rate, blood sugar levels and carbon dioxide). 

How the mind disects, stores and correlates the information if gathers is somewhat different to the linear recording or cataloguing of current systems though. 

After her first stroke a patient found engagement when otherwise unable to communicate by looking at family photographs on an iPad. After a second stroke the same patient, deemed incapable of comprehension or communication, responded to hundreds of images of paintings she had known in her lifetime – in particular responding to the question posed when looking at one painting. Where is it? Ans; Louvre. What is it? Mona Lisa. (Vernon, 2012)

As sensing technologies become more ubiquitous and wearable a new trend of lifelogging and passive image capture is starting to take place and early clinical studies have shown much promise in aiding human memory. Doherty and Smeaton (2009)

Fig.1. A game of pairs – our minds are far more interprative, chaotic and illogical when it comes to visual associations based on what we see around us.

However, it is presumptious, prescritpive and even manipulative to assume that a person recalls ‘more of the same’ when visualing sensing or surveying a place. The foibles of the human mind and system is that noises and smell, the temperature and weather, and the time of day have a part to play. I visit Trafalgar Square and smell pigeons even though they are long gone. I visit Buckingham Palace and recall finding a woman dead on the pavement one late evening. I see snow and think of the broken leg I got from skiing in my teens – not snowmen. I see any icecream van and think specifically of Beadnell Bay, Northumberland.

The mind is far, far more complex than a fancy game of ‘pairs’. I have perhaps 30,000 of my own images online, so why support, replace or supplement these with those taken by others? What if during my lifetime I tag, link and assocaite these images? How might these be linked to another personal log – a diary of some 2.5 million written over a 30 year period?

There are research challenges involved in further improving the quality of the lifelog augmentation process, especially with regard to “event-specific” lifelog events, e.g., football matches, rock concerts, etc. Other research challenges include investigations into selecting initial seed images based on adaptive radii, more sophisticated tag selection techniques, and also considering how interface design and varying methods of visualisation affect users’ acceptance of augmented data.

REFERENCE

Baddeley, A., Ed. Your Memory: A User’s Guide; Carlton Books: New York, NY, USA, 2004.

Bell, G.; Gemmell, J. A digital life. Scientific American Magazine, March 2007.

Berry, E.; Hampshire, A.; Rowe, J.; Hodges, S.; Kapur, N.; Watson, P.; Smyth, G.B.G.; Wood, K.;
Owen, A.M. The neural basis of effective memory therapy in a patient with limbic encephalitis. J.
Neurol. Neurosurg. Psychiatry 2009, 80, 582–601.

Doherty,.R. and Smeaton.A.F. (2009) Automatically Augmenting Lifelog Events Using Pervasively Generated Content from Millions of People

Vernon, J.F. (2012) Use of hundreds of image grabs of contempary artists, Leonardo da Vinci and Van Gogh to communicate with an elderly patient after a series of catastrophic and ultimately fatal strokes.

Zacks, J.M.; Speer, N.K.; Vettel, J.M.; Jacoby, L.L. Event understanding and memory in healthy
aging and dementia of the alzheimer type. Psychol. Aging 2006, 21, 466–482.

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