If you think back 10 years, we were still recording and sharing our lives in a very narrow capacity. We mostly shared our stories with each other in person, over the phone or by email — perhaps attaching a few photos if we happened to have them. And, for most of us, the photos we took tended to be of special events, because we knew in advance to pack our cameras to photograph them. 

From Local to Global

In the span of a decade, we’ve seen the ways we share information change in three main ways: local to global, delayed to instant and compositional to visual. The first major change was allowing anyone to author and publish his or her own stories through blogs. This was followed by a simplified version — a sound-bite revolution with Facebook statuses and tweets. Most recently, momentum has grown around a medium that offers a richer experience: photographs.

Technologies that allow the constant recording of many aspects of a person’s life are emerging. This is often referred to as lifelogging or visual lifelogging. These autobiographical photo streams offer a blend of depth and simplicity, making it easier for more people to participate.

Capturing Important Moments

Everyone has a story to tell and lifelogging technologies like the Memoto camera and app, created by the company I work for, are able to automatically capture photos every 30 seconds. The camera clips to your shirt and the app software organizes the photos into easy-to-understand segments we call moments. By wearing the camera, the user captures life as it happens.

Oskar Kalmaru, Memoto co-founder, is wearing his company's camera.
Memoto co-founder Oskar Kalmaru attaches his company's small square lifelogging camera to his shirt collar.

I think a big change we are going to see is the kind of person who is using these devices. By eliminating the need to make an active decision to take a photo or organize the images, recording and sharing life events will be attainable for many more people. Instead of having to describe an experience, you’ll simply show it, from your point of view. This has a lot of interesting implications. For instance, we may see young children with a first-person visual diary of their first day of school. Someone like my grandmother who actively uses Facebook and adamantly photographs as many events as possible might also use this. While the sentimental value is more than enough to pique her interest, a more practical look at the benefits of recording her life through photos is equally worthwhile. A visual lifelog could help her remember her last doctor’s appointment or refresh her memory about when she met someone. The culmination of these constructive applications could be enough to get her to take part.

Dealing with Data Overload

However, considering we will be seeing and sending more and more content, context is going to be of major importance. The Memoto camera, for instance, is more than a camera: It has an accelerometer, magnetometer and GPS. These features provide rich data and this data provides context. This may mean when a loved one asks about your day, you can share your day’s photo stream and key in on a specific location or time. If you choose to share with a larger audience, everyone’s photo stream could be linked to streams from the same date, time and place to offer views of the same area from different vantage points. Context is the tie that binds and keeps this kind of lifelogging interesting. 

How We Remember Our Own Lives

As lifelogging technology proliferates, the real noteworthy question is how automatically capturing life through photos will change the way we remember our own lives. Research contends that our memories are a self-revised version of the actual event and that these memories continue to evolve. In the newly released documentary, Lifeloggers, Thad Starner, a professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology and a Technical Lead/Manager on Google Glass, explains the utility of lifelogging through the principle of comics, stating that breaking an event down into just a few simple, visual segments is “all you need … to spur your memory of what happened.” I think this element of lifelogging offers powerful appeal, as I know that many of us wish for some visual triggers to help us remember certain moments in our lives.

This is why I believe visual lifelogging offers an exceptionally meaningful way to tell and preserve our life stories, whether you are someone who opts to share a lot of your life already with your friends and the world at large — or whether you are simply interested in preserving memories for yourself. Many of the ways this technology is going to change the storytelling about our lives are still yet to be seen. Since photo streams and the technology allowing us to capture them offer a rich and effortless experience, we can expect to see more people engaged in the creation and consumption of them.

Sarah Massengale is the community manager at Memoto, a Swedish lifelogging digital camera company. The Memoto camera is expected to launch later this year.