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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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Gordon Bell, Microsoft, Extreme Life-Logging

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 18 Jan 2013, 07:30

 

Gordon Bell

Microsoft Research Silicon Valley

Email: GBell At Microsoft.com is the most reliable communication link
Mobile phone & answering machine:
(415) 640 8255 best voice link
Office & Computer LYNC Phone: (415) 972-6542; this rings on my PC
FAX
only if you must: MS fax gateway(425) 936-7329 address to "gbell"
Microsoft Office: 835 Market Street, Suite 700, San Francisco, CA, 94103

(c) Dan Tuffs, Photographer

Gordon Bell is a principal researcher in the Microsoft Research Silicon Valley Laboratory, working in the San Francisco Laboratory. His interests include extreme lifelogging, digital lives, preserving everything in cyberspace, and cloud computing as a new computer class and platform. He proselytizes Jim Gray’s Fourth Paradigm of Science.

Gordon has long evangelized scalable systems starting with his interest in multiprocessors (mP) beginning in 1965 with the design of Digital's PDP-6, PDP-10's antecedent, one of the first mPs and the first timesharing computer. He continues this interest with various talks about trends in future supercomputing (see Papers… presentations, etc.) and especially clustered systems formed from cost-effective “personal computers”.  As Digital's VP of R&D he was responsible for the VAX Computing Environment. In 1987, he led the cross-agency group as head of NSF's Computing Directorate that made "the plan" for the National Research and Education Network (NREN)aka the Internet.

When joining Microsoft in 1995, Gordon had started focusing on the use of computers and the necessity of telepresencebeing there without really being there, then. "There" can be a different place, right now, or a compressed and different time (a presentation or recording of an earlier event). In 1999 this project was extended to include multimedia in the home (visit Papers… presentations, etc.).

He puts nearly all of his atom- and electron-based bits in his local Cyberspace—the MyLifeBits project c1998-2007. This includes everything he has accumulated, written, photographed, presented, and owns (e.g. CDs). In February 2005 an epiphany occurred with the realization that MyLifeBits goes beyond Vannevar Bush's "memex" and is a personal transaction processing database for everything described in June 14, 2005 SIGMOD Keynote. The MyLifeBits project with Jim Gemmell is described in an article by us in the March 2007 Scientific American. Alec Wilkinson described Gordon and the MyLifeBits effort in the 28 May 2007 issue of the New Yorker. By the publication of the book the final epiphany was that our e-memories are where the records reside and bio-memories are just URLs into these records.

He and Jim Gemmell have written a book entitled Total Recall: How the e-Memory Revolution Will Change Everything which was published in=n September 2009. You can order it at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Borders, orIndieBound. Please check out the Total Recall book website. Your Life, Uploaded: The Digital Way to Better Memory, Health, and Productivity is the paperback version published September 2010. It is available in Dutch, French, Italian, Japanese, Korean, and Portuguese.

The remainder of the site includes these pages:

  1. Papers, books, PowerPoint presentations, videos since 1995, when joining Microsoft
  2. Extended Bio-- education, work history, honors... Alaska fishing and France biking
  3. Vitae: Listing of books, computers, interviews, papers, patents, projects, and videos
  4. THE COMPUTER MUSEUM ARCHIVE An archive of The Computer Museum in Boston 1980-1998.

5. Gordon's  Cyber Museum that has Bell's books, the Hollerith Patent, the CDC 8600 Manual, a talk about Seymour Cray, an album of supercomputer photos, posters about the history of computing, etc.

6. Gordon's Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) Cyber Museum has artifacts, books, brochures, clippings, manuals, memos (e.g. The VAX Strategy), memorabilia, photos, posters, presentations, etc. relating to Digital Equipment Corporation a.k.a. DEC.

7. Supercomputing and the CyberInfrastructure lists articles, memos, talks, and testimony regarding the various aspects of high performance computing including funding, goals, and problems in reaching to the Teraflops in 1995 and Petaflops in 2010.

Bell's Law of Computer Classes and Class formation was first described in 1972 with the emergence of a new, lower priced microcomputer class based on the microprocessor. Microsoft Technical Report MSR-TR-2007-146 describes the law and gives the implication for multiple cores per chip, etc. Established market class computers are introduced at a constant price with increasing functionality (or performance). Technology advances in semiconductors, storage, interfaces and networks enable a new computer class (platform) to form about every decade to serve a new need. Each new usually lower priced class is maintained as a quasi independent industry (market). Classes include: mainframes (60's), minicomputers (70's), networked workstations and personal computers (80's), browser-web-server structure (90's), web services (2000's), palm computing (1995), convergence of cell phones and computers (2003), and Wireless Sensor Networks aka motes (2004). Beginning in the 1990s, a single class of scalable computers called clusters built from a few to tens of thousands of commodity microcomputer-storage-networked bricks began to cover and replace mainframes, minis, and workstation. Bell predicts home and body area networks will form by 2010. See also the description of several laws (e.g. Moore's, Metcalfe's, Bill's, Nathan's, Bell's) that govern the computer industry is given in Laws, a talk by Jim Gray and Gordon Bell.

Description: \\research\root\web\external\en-us\UM\People\gbell\CGB on Segway 020405_small.jpgDescription: \\research\root\web\external\en-us\UM\People\gbell\CGB on GM Segway GM model_small.jpgGordon was with his Diamond Exchange colleagues at the Boulders, Carefree, AZ where the group tested the Segway, a dual-processor, two wheeled, computer and Human Transporter.  Since the test in 2002, he has taken and recommended tours in the Pacificia near San Francisco, and Washington, DC. Yes, this is a product endorsement. Right is the Ford SUV version

 

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Digital Housekeeping

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 23 Oct 2011, 07:46

Illl-health has impacted on my activity online. This in itself is an insight. On the one hand we lable people for analysis, putting them into groups that vary from 'creator' all the way through to 'inactive' in order to simply its complexity, but more importantly in order to be able to share and discuss.

It has to be two, even three years since I did some long overdue 'digital housekeeping'. It isn't in my nature to go through my virtual pack of cards to put them in order; indeed, is order of any kind necessary so long as you have tagger thoroughly? It is, because such tags are no less valid just because you thoughts, ideas, assignments, references, quotes, pics, charts, grabs and so on are now collated. Indeed, these groups, chronologies and narratives are offering their own insights.

I've been inclined to equate 'stuff' (digital assets) as vegetation in a compost bin, however, this 'stuff' doesn't simply rot, rather it replicates itself ... then rots and transmogrifies in various ways. You think too hard and analogies fail because of the versatility, fluidity and complexity of the World Wide Web 2.0.

Creation is a part of what I do. There is considerable searching, grabbing, highlighting and note-taking too. Screen grabs and 'Snips' are treated like photographs and dealt with off-line in 'Picasa', online they are uploaded to Picasa Web and Dropbox. From here the url is shared in various ways in this blog and elsewhere. This 200GB album was looking like Wembley Stadium after a rock concert so I've gone in and begun to sort out and clean up my 'digital litter'.

What I find is that a grab, chart or image can instantly induce recollection of why I chose the image in the first place; the thinking behind the choice is revived. On their own these images will mean very different things to others until I add the text.

ON REFLECTION

Certain habits, such as titles, tags and references save you scrambling around later. Too often a great chart from a survey is rendered, in academic circles, useless, if I cannot locate the source. I can feel like riding a bicycle with square wheels ensuring that quotes and images are properly referenced at the time you highlight, note or grab, but it means that when you put them into an assignment, or simply a presentation or blog, this reference, usually with a URL is readily available.

This suits the kind of person who for a very short period (one month), not only kept a diary, but stuck the ephemera of the day into the folder/scrapbook too. Unsustainable, but extraordinary how a 3d bus ticket from the 1970s does more to remind me of the Yellow 45 bus I took along the 'Great North Road' to primary school then any words (that I couldn't have written at the time) to explain it.

Intermittently, having come across him during H808, I think about the Microsoft programmer who uses a digital device to RECORD everything he does, all day (sound and vision). That's the easy part. The hard part is creating the software to extract and store content of worth. The problem is that the mind, which must equate to how innovative we are, is anything but well ordered.

How often do we stop and think?

I may be an atheist but perhaps on the seventh day we should rest; we unplugged the router, put the phone on charge for the following week, turn off the TV and buy a paper? Or go to church ... or the non-religious equivalent.

Gordon%252520Bell%252520MICROSOFT.JPG

A search for 'Microsoft' in this diary brings me the name 'Gordon Bell', the entry I wrote in January and a link to the New Scientist article and its author. Gordon Bell wrote that he hoped eventually to unconver some patterns 'you would never have gleaned unaided.'

I very rarely look at old diaries. Doing so I was in despair. Neither the chronology, nor the day of the week is relevant, rather it is the unlinked themes that run through it, but to get at those requires transcription and digitisation.

I'd prefer to live life than live about the life I lived.

What Microsoft may achieve, though Google are surely doing it, is to formulate a better way to manager knowledge.

Which brings me to my final though for now, and that is to go entirely Google.

I use Google tools extensively already.

Picasa%252520LINKS%252520SNIP.JPG

I've never done much with 'Blogger' prefering 'Wordpress,' but Google makes it seamless, indeed, collectively Google tools are half-way between a virtual learning environment (VLE) and that amorphous collection of tools we collectively give the term 'personal learning environment' (PLE).

 

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A diary 1975 to the present day - with gaps

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 23 Oct 2011, 07:53

I gave up buying the Guardian on Saturday after a decade or more of doing so in favour of receiving the New Scientist every week; it is simple.

Too much that I read in the paper I know already and the Colour supplement's target audience is the bottom of the bin.

I am rewarded this week with

  • a) the news that Google have digitised 5 million books
  • b) a piece on blogging 'Dear e-diary ... '

This ought to be how anyone who blog begins their entry, 'dear diary;' blogging sounds like something Morris Dancer's do in slippers after hours behind the pub.

Alun Anderson passess through the history of the diary with some clumsy thoughts on such things becoming popular gifts in the 1820s and the number of diaries inviting us to buy them at this time of year on supermarket shelves - actually I find the Academic diary is more popular in late August.

Never mind

In one respect he is right; along with New Year's resolutions, keeping a diary from January 1st is up there.

Of course, we all decide to do this on the 5th or 6th so have to invent an entry or three or four for the previous days. I've just been looking on shelves where old diaries are stored ... (this stuff gets an outing once or twice a decade). For reasons suggested above, some of the first few days of the New Year draw a blank, though I appear to have an unbroken record for the 5th and 6th of January since 1976. (I should add that the diary record over 34 years has about 13 years of blanks, so I'm not such an obsessive.

I have an unbroken run from 1983 to 1987 and 1978-1982 are complete, but largely little more than a five liner in a Five Year diary.

September 1979 is interesting though, short of the technology, I just about achieved what Gordon Bell, a senior researcher at Microsoft is up to ... recording absolutely everything that ever happens to him with a digital camera strung around his neck. (I trust he'll call it albatross).

We've seen how relentlessly dull TV manufatured life can be from Big Brother, why will Gordon's life be any better, or will the presence of the digital recorder prompt him into doing something 'worth recording,' i.e. mucking up any science he may think is going on.

What I did, not knowing for how long I'd do it, was to open the parameters of my diary page entries, from five lines every day, to an A4 sheet (no more, never missed), to as much as it could take; it took a couple of hours to write every night, which would of course lead to that vital practice of reflecting on the process of writing itself. That and every bust ticket into town (Newcastlte), the Commodores ?! Tuxedo Junction. And the 'swimming baths.' (sic). A play at the Gulbenkien. Godspell at the Theatre Royal. A Mars Bar for 3p.

Totall Recall: How the e-memory revolution will change everything.

No it won't.

All the years I Twittered into a Five Year diary (about 60 words), my aim was to put in something that would remind me what happend that exact day; I'm forever staggered how I've achieved this on very little indeed. It requires a key, not the detail, just an Alice in Wonderland key that opens up the rest of it.

This is what Microsoft should be thinking about, not oceans of everything, but the meaningful flotsam and jetsam, that and the person saying what they think and feel about what is going on. Find me the third-party device that can record thoughts, feelings and dreams - it's a thing of fiction.

This item is written by the former editor-in-chief of the New Scientist, Alun Anderson.

It amuses me to see that the new New Scientist editor-in-chief is Roger Highfield. I don't suppose he can tell me what we ate when I had dinner with him in November 1984 in Wood Green (give me a sec) ... I can. And curiouser, and curiouser, though there's not a jot recorded on what we spoke about that night, I've an inkling I could share.

It is empowering to know I can ferret around in an old diary for ten minutes to get these answers; doing the same with some 16000 blog entries saves me a few moments. Away from my desk, diaries or the Internet however, I'm sure that all this ferreting around in the past has kept these memories accessible.

Gordon Bell will eventually unconver some patterns 'you would never have gleaned unaided;' I feel I'm ahead of the Mircosoft game.

On verra.

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