When Facebook sent out hundreds of millions of one-minute Look Back videos at the beginning of this month, the personalised clips were technically a celebration of the social network’s ten-year anniversary.
But it might equally have been a response to the resurgent concept of lifelogging, with its apps, its trackers, its automated cameras and its promise of a complete and total life record, with data, photos and contextual notifications. It’s as if Facebook were saying: ‘no need to bother with all that stuff – you’re already logging your life here’.
Ah, but are you really? Think of what you’ve missed – the places you didn’t take photos of, the continuous physiological data you didn’t even know about, the funny things you said on other platforms. Is compulsive Facebook-updating really doing justice to the life you are living? Or do you need to start lifelogging?
This, at any rate, is what an increasing number of dedicated lifelogging start-ups want you to think. Having been introduced in 2000 as a (then) faintly preposterous project in which Microsoft researcher Gordon Bell aimed to digitise a lifetime’s photos, letters, memos, home movies, books and physical data in general, lifelogging has been peering out of its conceptual hole again recently, and found itself suddenly looking timely and almost sensible.
Wearable activity trackers have clearly been with us for some time, and they are an element of the modern lifeblogging proposition, but not the whole thing.
Late last year, two tiny wearable cameras, Autographer and The Narrative Clip (formerly successful Kickstarter cause Memoto) became available, promising to take constant photos of your life so you don’t have to, and providing a complete photographic record of everything you do.
Earlier this month, automatic lifelogging app Saga launched globally, determined to persuade us to preserve our memories externally, data-ise our life, write our digital autobiography and feed us useful notifications by logging our steps, tracking our location and aggregating all our social media activity.
In January, Sony indicated their interest in the market too, announcing a forthcoming activity-tracker called Core and the related LifeLogger app, which compiles a daily record of everything it can get its hands on, from social networking updates to photos to how well you slept.
Meanwhile, a whole raft of apps, from Moves to Narrato to Chronos, all want to log increasingly broad swathes of your life, or let you do it yourself in a variety of ways. The threat isn’t really to Facebook or Twitter, which feed into many of these systems, though both have made moves that suggest they acknowledge we appear to want collected data about our fascinating lives – Twitter, of course, allows us to download and browse our bons mots month by month.
But there is clearly a race on, to investigate just how habit-forming this self-quantification can become, and to find the app or device that will serve as its key platform.