Narrative camera

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(Madrid, 12.11.2014)

 

I bought the Narrative camera (lifelogging clip) in the kickstarter phase (back in the summer 2013) and it arrived on April 23 (2014). I started using it right away and have kept it on pretty much every hour of every day for the past 6 months.

According to Picasa, I have about 240 000 photos in my Narrative folder, about 1.2 Gb per day and some mysterious meta-data folder. Yes, I put the whole thing into Picasa and after about 30 hours it also said there were upwards of 18 000 faces (I thought either my laptop or external hard drive were going to collapse, but thankfully no). (for those of you who don’t know, the camera is set to take one picture every 30 seconds)

I have yet to tag 15000 faces, taking it slowly, and so far about 160 people I know. No surprise about the person that most appears in the photos, Erin! my wife, about 1500 photos and then the kids.

A few thoughts about my experience using Narrative:

I usually wear the clip between button holes on my work shirt or on a t-shirt collar. It’s handy to have the clip but it’s fallen off at least 10 times by mistake, about half of those time when running for the bus. I think that most people don’t realize what it is. Some may glance at it, but only close friends break the ice and ask “what is that, a camera, a video-camera, a recording device?” Someone asked me once whether it was something related to my health, like  for my heart or a type of podometer. No-one has looked at it and said, I see you’re wearing a Narrative camera.

People’s reactions

When I tell those people what it is, there are three reactions, a) oh how interesting! go ahead, let it take pictures, how much is it? take a picture of me and send it to this email address!, b) hmm, why are you doing this, what are you going to do with the photos, is that a waste of time? and c) reality check, I’m not sure I like this, is this a violation of my privacy? I’d say that the percentage of people per group are around 10, 80 and 10. No one has asked me to remove it, but I often feel I have to give a bit more explanation of why I’m wearing this thing.

Why wear one?

In the first place, I bought the camera (230 euros) to help complete my journaling activity. I’ve been keeping a diary for four years in a muji book where I write down most everything that happens to me during the day (see https://vimeo.com/98385763 ). Often I scan the day’s photos at night and it reminds me what I have done and what I have left to do.

Secondly, I usually let people know that I don’t distrubute the photos on facebook! I download them to my computer, and I don’t upload them anywhere. I don’t really look at them individually. I keep them with the idea that one day someone will invent an algorithm that will tell me something more about…  not sure what. Maybe the hours that I spend in the office, eating, time with different people.

I’ve also realized how many people I see every day but do not interact with (as in conversations, names, etc). That has given me another feeling of community that I did not quite realize. There are so many other people out there, in the street, in the metro, that pass through the same environments and that are mostly like me in the end. I recognize some of them now in the street, in the metro, and I feel more of a sensation of community, closeness. If I hadn’t seen them in the photos, I probably wouldn’t have recognized them at all, and I would have a different impression passing through those places, possibly more an independent object in a colder world.

I have shown some photos to friends, but especially as a sequence, not necessarily for a particular shot (the quality is nice, but often times the photos are not very well composed). For example, I can show my wife or kids places I’ve been, routes taken to go places. I can show a friend my hiking route through some forest in the Pyrenees. If I’m working the lab, I can run a new student through a specific process and/or review what it is that I did exactly.

That’s the news for now. The next couple of weeks I’ll try to dig more through the photo time line and we’ll see what happens.

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4 thoughts on “Narrative camera

  1. So far in your journey with the Narrative camera do you feel that it has affected your behaviour with the world, outside of the new conversations that it has generated? Do you think it is something that you would recommend to others, if so, for which reasons?
    Many thanks for your experiences and sharing them! 🙂

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    1. Hola! I think my whole self-experiment over the past 4 years with the journaling has affected my behavior, and the Narrative camera is a part of it, but not really the central part. I do feel somewhat peeved if I forget the camera or miss something if I don’t have it on, as if it’s telling a story. I would recommend it, its an interesting experience. Possibly the best part is that it helps you be more aware of things, even processes. I guess it depends on the person, some may not want to be more aware of their life (I’ve heard several people comment that using the Narrative haakes made them see how boring their life really is, lots of computer screens and driving wheels..), but for me it helps to contemplate, assess and try to improve. Its also amazing how many things we forget or make up in our minds, and reviewing the pictures makes you deal with that too.

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