Through the Naked Eye: a novice’s take on lifelogging

By: Joselyn Nussbaum, guest blogger

A few weeks ago, I had one of those Perfect Life Moments while walking on the beach with my family. We were spending a weekend away from home, engaging in the activities that typically revolve around eating, drinking, and being merry. I was so caught up in the sun, sand, and company that I completely forgot to pause and snap some photos – and was duly disappointed when I realized that my already-fading memories would serve as the sole testament to the fact that I was there and did those things. Even if I had bothered to capture a shot or two, I ran the risk of altering the mood of the environment. We’re all neurotic narcissists when the camera emerges, and this often turns a candid moment into a manufactured memory. I couldn’t help but think how convenient it would’ve been if some omnipotent (yet invisible) observer had been trailing me all weekend and documenting my experience.

Option 2

Several days later – when I was asked to compose a blog post about lifelogging – I spent a good several moments scratching my head. I’m aTweep, a redditor, a blogger, a Facebook-er…you name it, and I probably do it or at least have a username tied to the site. My thoughts and opinions are easily accessed after a few keystrokes and my Timeline is filled with the obligatory barrage of self-indulgent photos (some of which have admittedly been enhanced with vintage and sepia tones). I’m no stranger to social media and I consider myself to be reasonably up-to-date when it comes to the latest and greatest trends in technology. But lifelogging? Had I missed a crucial memo? Was this merely some buzzword related to projects like Google Glass or are people actually doing it already? And can it really be everything that the name implies – an attempt to log all aspects of one’s life?

What follows here is a brief overview of several discoveries I made in relation to what I can only assume is a cutting-edge topic: a veritable crash-course for someone who just wants a quick answer to that burning question “What is lifelogging?”…and since everyone loves a ponderous, witty, blog post, I’ll throw in a few of my own musings on the subject for good measure.

My quest for information began as any brilliant scholar’s might: I typed “lifelogging” into Google’s search bar. I was immediately linked to the obligatory Wikipedia page, but also to a number of videos and articles, including this one from the Los Angeles Times, a popular American newspaper. These initial tidbits revealed that lifelogging isn’t necessarily new (the idea has been around since the early 1980’s), and people are definitely engaging with the concept in various ways.

Option 1

Generally speaking, lifelogging involves little more than utilizing some kind of wearable computer to record various aspects of one’s life; this information can then either be shared or kept private. There’s the Nike Fuelband to track your movement, Zeo to track your sleep, Fitbit to track your calories, activity, AND your sleep… My brief research expedition essentially revealed a plethora of gadgets that will allow you to record, calculate, graph, and share pretty much any facet of your beautiful human existence. How quaint. And, admittedly, handy.

The thing about today’s world is that it’s passing us by at an alarmingly fast rate. At any given moment, we are bombarded with so many stimuli that it’s virtually impossible to give each bit its due attention. It therefore makes sense for us to utilize these devices so that we can both record and recall various aspects of our lives. I suppose it’s also worth noting that our brains are typically unreliable when it comes to remembering the particulars of daily activities. Our Fuelbands will therefore dutifully testify that we ran two miles last Monday – not the three that we seem to remember. In short, we’re making devices that keep us informed and honest so that we can just focus on living.

Or can we? One has to wonder if this documentation is making us more or less attentive to what’s actually going on at any given moment. If we know that something will record it all for us regardless, do we disengage from our existence, knowing that we can re-live it at any moment? Or do we instead become hyper-aware, fine-tuning our eating and sleeping habits in order to become super-human? Are all of these new gadgets causing us to study and observe more than we actually live?

I suppose I don’t have answers to such questions because I don’t own a Fuelband, a Fitbit, a Zeo, or any of these other revolutionary gizmos. However, some part of me can’t help but admit that turning my existence into a collection of numbers and snapshots is somewhat enticing; having a quantified version of myself could be pretty handy…especially when I want to recall exactly how sun hit the water while I strolled along the beach with my family on a warm January afternoon.

Joselyn Nussbaum is the Tourism & Marketing Coordinator at the Sacramento Convention and Visitor’s Bureau. She enjoys crossword puzzles, running, crafts, and pretending to speak Swedish. You can find here on Twitter at @brknumbrlla and on her blog: http://mylifeasabrokenumbrella.blogspot.com/

  • insigniff

    Hey, i’m new to the term “lifelogging” and it was interesting to read your take on it. This sentence especially captures my concerns; “We’re all neurotic narcissists when the camera emerges, and this often turns a candid moment into a manufactured memory.”

    I wonder whether documenting and recording ones life reinforces an egocentric (obsessive?) relationship to every moment, and spoils the authenticity of things said and done. Although maybe this pessimistic supposition merely stems from a lack of experience, so i would like to know from someone who’s tried logging and sharing their life.

  • sahm21

    Hi Insigniff, I think this is an interesting question to explore when more people have started visually lifelogging. It’s a bit difficult to answer right now and may really be a question that needs to be evaluated on an individual basis. A big part of the original concept of lifelogging with Memoto is the ability to enjoy the moment without having to stop and document it. Best, SM