We are on the brink of an evolution of personal storytelling and lifecasting experiences — moving them from the limited domain of life hackers and research scientists into broad mainstream consumer acceptance and use.
I believe that new consumer technology is already changing course from making our lives less human, and making them more human than ever before. Data streamed and captured in real time from increasingly miniaturized wearables is going to enable us to have our most authentic life stories automatically captured, without us ever having to write or edit a word, or shoot a photo or video ourselves. Now, we’re entering a new age of personal narrative, where our stories are immediately accessible and searchable, enduring and permanent, engaging and inviting, revelatory and emotional.
With my iPhone, wearable Bluetooth microphone, Microsoft Band, Narrative camera, and GoPro — I go about my day like a discretely accessorized cyborg — at least in comparison to the earlier mentioned pioneers. My personal interest is to use these 5 devices to help me capture everything I can about my life, the people I care about, and the world around me -digitally and as automatically as possible, everyday.
With its 12 sensors, I can use my Bluetooth-enabled Microsoft Band to tap into my biology and the world around me. I use it most often to wirelessly transmit my sleep habits each night to my iPhone, which I keep under my mattress. I have an app on my phone that monitors how much I toss and turn while I sleep and is sensitive to pressure changes in the mattress.
I wear a Bluetooth microphone that looks like a stylish silver dog tag around my neck. As I go about my day, it’s faithfully recording what I have to say, and periodically uploading the recordings to the cloud. I never have to think about it or do anything to initiate actions. As long as I talk, it records and whenever I pause, it pauses.
My Narrative Clip camera is a cool device that I ordered over two years ago on a Kickstarter campaign. It’s a simple unobtrusive pin you wear on your shirt lapel or collar. The tiny built-in camera automatically takes a picture every 30 seconds, from my perspective, at whatever I’m looking at.
And of course there is my trusty GoPro. Normally used by rock climbers, surfers, and extreme sports enthusiasts, I use my it for more plebian purposes — taking videos of me throughout the day. I set the camera up on one of four tripods I have throughout the house, and talk about whatever comes to mind. If I go outside on the hammock, I bring the GoPro with me. If I go jogging, I’ll mount it on a headband so it can get a bird’s-eye view of the surrounding terrain. If I go for a drive on my motorcycle, I have a mount where I can aim it at me as I drive.
While the two terabytes of data that I personally create with these devices every year might place me a bit on the cutting edge, the rest of the world is not all that far behind.
The rise in adoption of cameras and audio recorders, biometrics and life-logging devices has increased by at least 50% year over year. That means that more people are using these kinds of devices to capture data about themselves. This data embodies their personal stories, streamed and published to the Internet. Everyone will be generating personal data on a massive scale sooner than you realize. And it will all happen automatically, without you having to lift a finger.
As we all become ‘digital data natives,’ new technology-driven capabilities will be important to bring order, meaning and value to the data of automatically generated videos, photos and audio clips. What will distinguish this phase of the evolution of digital storytelling and life capture from earlier efforts will be in the layering in of deep context to enable meaningful search, retrieval and interaction — now and for generations to come. These include:
Social and psychological change is also accompanying technology change when it comes to wearable consumer technology. This is especially true in relationship to attitudes about privacy that are evolving over time, supported by the increasing miniaturization of technology. People are becoming more forgiving and accepting when it comes to what is more clearly about self-recording and documenting than something that once felt more like spying. Over time, we may even develop a whole new set of social cues for when we encounter someone with a wearable. Of course that changes again when we are all wearing them.
These technological and social changes are all making things really interesting for those of us who care deeply about the use of consumer technology in personal digital storytelling and the recording and preservation of narratives and memories.
I wake up every day inspired to be helping to create a world in which we can spend our time living authentic life stories and not waste it curating and editing them into false personas. So much of this change is being driven by advances in today’s emerging wearable consumer technology that provides the ability to gather stories (data) in an unobtrusive manner with a more fluid and natural recording experience. This then actually enhances, rather than disrupts, daily life. I’m also excited to look at future ways that we will soon be able to take the huge silos of data automatically generated from all of these devices and create the dashboard of our lives.
This is going to be a world where our stories are about humanism and not narcissism. Consumer technology and creative people are going to make that possible.
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