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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?

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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.

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?

 

 

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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