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The idea of gathering a substantial part of one’s life experience fascinates me, as it has often inspired others

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 19 Nov 2013, 09:42

Fig. 1. Hands by Escher.

The danger is for it to become one’s modus operandi, that the act of gathering is what you become. I recall many decades ago, possibly when I started to keep a diary when I was 13, a documentary - that can no doubt now be found on the Internet - on a number of diarists. There were not the well-known authors or celebrity politicians, but the obscure keeper of the heart beat, those who would toil for two hours a day writing about what they had done, which was to edit what they’d written about the day before … if this starts to look like a drawing by Escher then perhaps this illustrates how life-logging could get out of hand, that it turns you inside out, that it causes implosion rather than explosion. It may harm, as well as do good. We are too complex for this to be a panacea or a solution for everybody. A myriad of book, TV and Film expressions of memory, its total recall, false recall, falsehoods and precisions abound. I think of the Leeloo in The Fifth Element learning about Human Kind flicking through TV Channels.

Fig. 2. Leeloo learns from TV what the human race is doing to itself

Always the shortcut for an alien to get into our collective heads and history. Daryl Hannah does it in Splash too. Digitisation of our existence, in part or total, implies that such a record can be stored (it can) and retrieved in an objective and viable way (doubtful). Bell (2009) offers his own recollections, sci-fi shorts and novels, films too that of course push the extremes of outcomes for the purposes of storytelling rather than seeking more mundane truth about what digitization of our life story may do for us.

Fig. 3. Swim Longer, Faster

There are valid and valuable alternatives - we do it anyway when we make a gallery of family photos - that is the selective archiving of digital memory, the choices over what to store, where to put it, how to share then exploit this data. I’m not personally interested in the vital signs of Gordon Bell’s heart-attack prone body, but were I a young athlete, a competitive swimmer, such a record during training and out of the pool is of value both to me and my coach. I am interested in Gordon Bell’s ideas - the value added, not a pictoral record of the 12-20 events that can be marked during a typical waking day, images grabbed as a digital camera hung around his neck snaps ever 20-30 seconds, or more so, if it senses ‘change’ - gets up, moves to another room, talks to someone, browses the web … and I assume defecates, eats a meal and lets his eyes linger on … whatever takes his human fancy.

How do we record what the mind’s eye sees?

How do we capture ideas and thoughts? How do we even edit from a digital grab in front of our eyes and pick out what the mind is concentrating on? A simple click of a digital camera doesn’t do this, indeed it does the opposite - it obscure the moment through failing to pick out what matters. Add sound and you add noise that the mind, sensibly filters out. So a digital record isn’t even what is being remembered. I hesitate as I write - I here two clocks. No, the kitchen clock and the clicking of the transformer powering the laptop. And the wind. And the distant rumble of the fridge. This is why I get up at 4.00am. Fewer distractions. I’ve been a sound engineer and directed short films. I understand how and why we have to filter out extraneous noises to control what we understand the mind of the protagonist is registering. If the life-logger is in a trance, hypnotized, day dreaming or simply distracted the record from the device they are wearing is worse than an irrelevance, it is actually a false cue, a false record.

Fig. 4. Part of the brain and the tiniest essence of what is needed to form a memory

Mind is the product of actions within a biological entity. To capture a memory you’d have to capture an electro-chemical instance

across hundreds of millions of synapses.

Fig. 5. Diving of Beadnell Harbour, 1949. My later mother in her teens.

An automatically harvested digital record must often camouflage what might have made the moment a memory. I smell old fish heads and I see the harbour at Beadnell where as a child fisherman brought in a handful of boats every early morning. What if I smell old fish as I take rubbish to recycle? Or by a bin down the road from a fish and chip shop. What do my eyes see, and what does my mind see?

I love the messiness of the human brain - did evolution see this coming?

In ‘Delete’ Mayer-Schönberger (2009. p. 1) suggests that forgetting, until recently was the norm, whereas today, courtesy of our digital existences, forgetting has become the exception. I think we still forget - we don’t try to remember phone numbers and addresses as we think we have them in our phone - until we wipe or lose the thing. In the past we’d write them down, even make the effort to remember the things. It is this need to ‘make an effort’ to construct a memory that I fear could be discombobulated. I’m disappointed though that Mayer-Schönberger stumbles for the false-conception ‘digital natives’ - this is the mistaken impression that there exists a generation that is more predisposed and able than any other when it comes to all things digital. Kids aren’t the only ones with times on their hands, or a passion for the new, or even the budget and will to be online. The empirical evidence shows that the concept of a digital native is unsound - there aren’t any. (Jones et al, 2010., Kennedy et al, 2009., Bennet and Maton, 2010., Ituma, 2011) The internet and digital possibilities have not created the perfect memory. (Mayer-Schönberger 2009. p. 3)

To start with how do we define ‘memory’ ?

A digital record is an artefact, it isn’t what is remembered at all. Indeed, the very nature of memory is that it is different every time you recall a fact or an event. It becomes nuanced, and coloured. It cannot help itself.

Fig. 6. Ink drops as ideas in a digital ocean

A memory like drops of ink in a pond touches different molecules every time you drip, drip, drip. When I hear a family story of what I did as a child, then see the film footage I create a false memory - I think I remember that I see, but the perspective might be from my adult father holding a camera, or my mother retelling the story through ‘rose tinted glasses’.

Fig. 7. Not the first attempt at a diary, that was when I was 11 ½ .

I kept a diary from March 1973 to 1992 or so. I learnt to write enough, a few bullet points in a five year diary in the first years - enough to recall other elements of that day. I don’t need the whole day. I could keep a record of what I read as I read so little - just text books and the odd novel. How might my mind treat my revisting any of these texts? How well and quickly would it be recalled? Can this be measured? Do I want it cluttering the front of my brain?

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If you could recall everything is this helpful or a hinderance?

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‘If someone could retain in his memory everything he had experienced, if he could at any time call up any fragment of his past, he would be nothing like human beings; neither his loves nor his friendships nor his angers nor his capacity to forgive or avenge would resemble ours’. Milan Kundera.
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H800: 28 What is 'learning?' This is:

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 3 Mar 2011, 16:54

I've been pondering this question for 14 years .. since our daughter was born.

I don't think I gave it a moment's thought at school, university, in further postgraduate studying or courses or even at work where we were producing training films (amongst other things).

Knowing and applying 'stuff' came into it.

Otherwise it was starting to get my head around the neurological processes that had me starting to understand what was going on. Simple really, you expose a person (your daughter, yourself) to something and it results in a stimuli that with repetition becomes embedded.

You cannot help yourself. You pick things up. At what stage have something been learnt though? When you apply it? Or simply knowing that the knowledge is 'there.'

One key moment this last year was coming to an understanding of what 'life-long learning' entails. Even concluding that the less isolated we are the more we learn? Which hardly holds true of the bookworm (or should they now be called webworms?)

Did it help to play Mozart while she was developing in the womb?

Did it help that she was learning to play the piano, draw, type and read all at the same time?

How does she compare to her brother because she apparently has a 'photographic' memory ... while he does not?

i.e. just because the input mechanism allows for good recall does she learn any better, or even less well, than someone who has to make more effort?

My own mind is made of Teflon - nothing sticks! And even if I get it into my head it slides all over the place producing most unusual combinations sad

Am I going to Google 'learning' or look it up in Wikipedia?

Probably not.

I'd prefer to find out what Quentin Blake makes of it ... or Norman Mailer. What did learning mean to Vincent van Gogh? We can probably tell from the many letters he wrote to his brother.

I have read Ian Kershaw's two volume biography of Adolf Hitler.

How did that monster acquire and develop his belief systems?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The best form of ‘cognitive housekeeping’ is to sleep on it.

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 6 Nov 2011, 17:58

So I blogged three months ago when considering the merits and demerits of keeping a learning journal and reflective writing.

It transpires that sleep really does sort the ‘memory wheat from the chaff’ according to a report in the Journal of Neuroscience, DOI, 10,1,1523.jneuorsci.3575-10.2011) referred to in the current New Scientist. This Week. 5 FEB 2011.

‘It turns out that during sleep the brain specifically preserves nuggets of thought it previously tagged as important.’ Ferris Jabr says.

I have always used sleep to reflect on ideas.

If I expect or wish to actively dwell on something I will go to sleep with the final thought on my mind, a pen and pad of paper by my side. Cat naps are good for this too. I will position myself with pillows and a book, or article and drift off as I finish. Waking up ten or twenty minutes later I glance straight back at the page and will feel a greater connection with it.

I wonder if there is commercial value in working from home and doing so up 'til the point you need to fall asleep? It's how my wife works when she is compiling a hefty report. It's how I work when I have an assignment, or a script to deliver ... or a producton to complete. The work never stops and it doesn't stop me sleeping.

Going back to tagging.

How does the mind do this? In curious ways. We all know how a memory can be tagged with a smell or a sound. For me how mothballs remind me of my Granny’s cupboard (an image of it immediately in my mind). A Kenwood blender will always remind me of my mother grings biscuits to put on the basae of a cheesecake. And a sherbert dip the Caravan Shop, Beadnell, Northumberland. Often when a random recollection enters my consciousness I try to think what has triggered it: the way the light falls on a tree, the exhaust from a car or even a slight discomfort in my stomach. It is random. Indeed, is a random thought not impossible?

There has to be a trigger, surely?

Can any of these be used?

Perhaps I could categorise content here, or in an eportfolio by taste. So chocolate digestive biscuits might be used to recall anecdotes. Toothpaste might be used to recall statistics. Varieties of Bassett’s Liquorice Allsorts might be associated with people I have got to know (a bit) during the MAODE.

The mind boggles; or at least mine does.

Colour and images (Still or moving) is as much as we can do so far.

I’m intrigued by memory games. I like the journey around a familiar setting where you place objects you need to remember in familiar places so that you can recall a list of things. Here the tag is somewhere familiar juxtaposed with the fresh information.

Are there better ways to tag?

Look at my ridiculously long list of tags here. Am I being obtuse? When I think of a tag do I come up with a word I've not yet used? How conducive is that to recalling this entry, or grouping similar entries to do the job?

I like the way some blogs (Wordpress/EduBlogs) prompt you to use a tag you’ve applied before; it offers some order to it all. I long ago lost track of the 17000 entries in my blog. Would I want to categorise them all anyhow? I think I managed 37. I prefer the 'enter@random' button I installed.

Going back to this idea of tagging by taste/smell, might a word (the category) be given division by taste/smell, texture and colour? How though would such categories work in a digital form? Am all I doing here recreating a person’s shed, stuff shoved under their bed or stacked in a garage, or put in a trunk or tuck box in the attic?

In the test reported in the Neuroscientist those who went to bed in the knowledge that they would be tested on the information they had looked at that day had a 12% better recall.

See.

Testing works.

It doesn’t happen in MAODE, if at all. When are we put on the spot? When are we expected ever to playback a definition under ‘duress’?

‘There is an active memory process during sleep that selects certain memories and puts them in long-term storage.’


Like an e-portfolio?

Is the amount of sleep I've had, the 350 or so nights since I started the MAODE ... part of the learning environment required?

REFERENCE

Sleep Selectively Enhances Memory Expected to Be of Future Relevance
Wilhelm et al. J. Neurosci..2011; 31: 1563-1569

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One day at a time, one year at a time, each decade of his life

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 18 Jan 2011, 18:49

1976 – 1983 -

I could keep going to Jan 2011. Like a returning diarist the New Year offers hope and a desire to record what goes on, though some of the tougher times would make better reading.

Reading this I could imagine a character who comes out of a coma with the New Year's Fire Works but nods off again by February 1st. There's a thought. There's a screenplay. There's another year or two of my life lost inside my head ...

January 5th

1976
Got up late, had bath, watched T.V. XXX and I were sent to our rooms, I couldn’t care because I had records, radio, typewriter, crayons etc: Watched TV. Cycled, Took down Xmas decorations and tree. Dad rang. No Tuesday. Didn’t mind. Used to him. Watched heart surgery on Horizon.

1977
Up at 8ish, breakfast with XXX and XXX, get stuff and leave dead on 9. Smash ice on pool. Wait for Mum 15 mins. Dad going to a meeting at Middlesbrough. Home, nothing changed, odd pieces of money from Aunties, chess from Uncle XXX. Still haven’t got rec: player, get record from Realm Records. No money though. Try to get rec: players in Town. Talk to XXX, bath, hair, TV, fall to sleep.

1978
Sleepy – read book. I, Claudius, Robert Graves. XXX at King’s Cross. XXX gets off to school. Phone me at 12 – stopped – continued. Very persistent, glad I answered – to meet XXX in Town. Tell her about disco – couldn’t get her Mum’s permission. Wonder town, Sit in restaurant for an hour left at 5. Danced at GRC with XXX

1979
Tell Mum were coming home on Sat. Train + XXX, Have People’s ringing P about a Top hat. Must try and get all my gear back somehow. More interesting XXX, in bed most of the day, XXX and more XXX and more comments about XXX with XXX.

1980
Felt ill in morning and up early and bath, Breakfast with XXX, late so not for XXX and Dad. Drift round Paris, stop at Cafe, then Louvre for the rest of the day. Late lunch and Eiffel Tower, slowly drive to Le Havre – pouring, Find Taverne Basque and have beautiful end of hold French meal., Mostly ski-estates on ferry, only Fiji for XXX.

1981
Strong wind – cleared snow and filled bus with Japanese (took photos of us). Clear Maison Rose, returned and sat in Cafeteria, Told off by Mme R as though I didn’t work. V. little to do so just got bored. Skied. Binding lose and broke twice. Up button lift and x4 the Telecabine (great) just starting to get legs (met XXX) – deadly, clean ski room/chocs for XXX (bleeper went) able to go early (7.10pm) really needed it as was most chattered.

1981
Hate the near depredation of the customs having to look through the boot. Expectantly. Dad missed a turning. As I did. He blew up. Rain and floods became snow at Appleby. Wanted to dash on to Newcastle to see XXX. After mean. Burst tire outside Appleby. A66 closed to Brough so drove via Brampton and straight to XXX’s. Being quite Telly ... Andrew XXX. Out for Midnight hedge, soaked but fun came in late and nicely ‘til 1.00 great to be back.

1983
Man rip to find out what I will to – to Hexham Infirmary with Mrs XXX and Granny and XXX, Plaster off and re enraged badly diagnosis by a seemingly drunk Dr XXX was to leave them alone. Work at 4.00 TV & XXX home to change before Tuxedo junction and had to get trews from Jonathan XXX, Mike XXX, Simon XXX, Rob XXX etc home to a bath end of dear but climb into bed for XXX v had the mattress from XXX’s room and on floor.

and on, and on, and on ...

Meaningless to non-participants (or should that read combatants) but most of these notes bring back the events of the day to me. Try this with a clear object in mind, studying a course with the Open University, a speculative project you want to bring about, clearly know when and what to keep private ... even write it in a book rather than online. Though I don’t think anyone has read anything I’ve locked online.

But do it. Even 50 words a day adds up over a year. And after a year it might inspire you to write 100 words a day. That's how I got going age 13 years 6 months. Exactly like Adrian Molehouse.

At family gatherings, several big ones are due in 2011, I am known as the archivist, I have the stories too, memories passed down to me of brothers and sisters growing up, but also of our long gone ‘ancient aunts’ who would all be 105+ by now. Photos of them too, old double 8mm film, me at my christening, photos of a World War 1 machine gunner, another an RFC bomber pilot.

Memories can be treasured. They should be treasured.

It doesn’t diminish the genre of keeping a diary to do so online, or to share some of the content with others, or do what the internet is great at doing – ‘Chunk’ your stuff into bite-size pieces; some of the above looks like a Twitter, keep to 250 words for a blog, but do it every day.

If words aren’t your thing load a picture a day, just one of many you may have snapped that will remind you of this day forever.

I listened to a busker sitting on Cliffe Bridge, Lewes yesterday afternoon.

Great, Passionate, Rough, Poignant. Thinking about it I wish I’d gone over and asked if I could take a snap, or video him on the phone for YouTube. I’ll do so next time I see him.

That would have nailed the day for me.

Then tag it. I have a tag fetish going. I do try to use the same word, but it looks as if I try to make up something different for the same thing, which rather spoils the purpose. Though I do rather like the ridiculous, tumbling, cascade of words and typos I have going in my tag clog, list thingey (another technical term that is a natz less technical that ‘stuff.’ all if which are eminently quantable to, of or by someone or something somewhere.

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