We carry instant memories with us

Sleepy Cat

If you’re like me, you’ve gotten into the habit of carrying your phone most everywhere you go. You use it to make notes, to answer emails, to view Facebook (too often), and to take photos. I used to wonder how we would be able to have multiple devices with us when we went places, and now I’ve realized that the compromise for an “almost-good-enough” camera is a good trade for being able to take pictures and video from almost anywhere.

I don’t remember faces all that well – I’m much better with matching names to concepts – and you might have seen a slightly blank look on my face when I’ve met you again after a while. And my phone really helps. By getting into the habit of taking these instant memories, I’ve been much more successful at stitching together the fragments of memories and better matching people to experiences.

In the last 5 years I’ve gone from taking the occasional photo to taking as many as several dozen in a day that I want to keep (and lots more that I discard.) Photos are a window into our present (and our past) in a way that words don’t describe for me. It could be that I’m just visual by nature, and I can’t stop taking pictures.

A perfect solution for cataloging and managing these instant memories might include geo-location, context, and other sorts of automatic tagging, along with the “nearby public photos” that other people are taking. So why can’t I mine Facebook for this information? Sure, I can look at the Timeline, and I can (sort of) search Twitter, and I can see the Instagram profile now (cool.) What I’m missing is the ability to identify, categorize, and manage the kind of Lifestreams that Gordon Bell has pioneered, without the massive storage and processing power that this would require in today’s world. Yes, it’s possible – and not quite feasible for the average person.

Yet there are signs that an aggregator that would allow us to manage lifestreams is (sort of) already happening. All of the big services would like to provide this utility, from Facebook’s timeline to Twitter’s profile and other similar photo album and status accumulators. And they are all not quite like what you’d imagine when you think of Vannevar Bush’s idea of a memex.

Why is this ability so fragmented? We could examine the usual suspects like: “corporations want us to have one source for knowledge,” “data hasn’t been coordinated to work together,” or perhaps “it’s hasn’t been important enough to us yet to develop.” I believe a memex will be developed in my lifetime, and in the meantime, I’ll continue to take pictures every day to fill in the gaps.


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