Sitting on a heap of photos (at New Year’s)


I start this blog with a warning that I’ve utterly failed in my efforts to do some sort of sophisticated (or even unsophisticated) analysis of my now more than 300 000 photos in my Narrative folder. After my last blog, I attempted to keep using Picasa to recognize faces but calculated it would take me at least 30 hours to help the software keep recognizing. Apart from the lack of time, the effort-reward balance seemed off-kilter. Yes, I’ve recognized >200 people-faces in my Picasa, not all of them I can name, but people in my life, and so what? What are all these faces telling me? … apart from there are lots of people out there…

Just for fun the other day (a work day, 30.10.2014) I counted the number of people I saw on the way to the metro, and out of those, how many faces I could discern. I didn’t count people in cars, just on the sidewalk, but counted every “body” I could see, even on the other sidewalk. My neighborhood is not too downtown but the area around the metro can get busy. I counted 151 people from house to metro entrance, and saw 68 faces, about 45% of all the people I saw. I repeated this again on a Sunday (02.11.2014) but was walking with my wife so maybe not as attentive, and saw 40 faces out of 170 people (24%). So, if a narrative camera identifies 1000 faces a day, that could mean that I was around many more (range 24-45% of people actually around or 2222-4166 people). There is surely some kind of index floating around that defines this better, i.e., faces seen compared to people around but I don’t know it (if you do please email me!).

So the faces recognition was ok, but got a bit stumped. I have found a way it can add to my journaling though.

How narrative adds to my journaling

I’ve been keeping a daily journal or log book for almost 5 years now and performed a little experiment on New Year’s day. I tried to recall the previous day (the last day of 2014!) using three “memories” available to me, short term memory, my notebook (4 pages long) and the narrative photos (1799 images). By the bye, my average number of narrative images a day is about 1333 (see Figure 1) and that number varies slightly during the week (Figure 2).

fig_monthyear fig_daysweek

Experiment: I asked myself what I did yesterday, what happened? and wrote down everything that came to mind based on:

-short term memory: Ok Morris, think about what happened yesterday. Went this place, was with this person, ate this or that, sunny day. It all seemed to be more body related, physical, like recalling what kind of day it was (warm, cool), the air temperature, where went. I remember it was freezing yesterday morning on the way to the train with Oliver, taking him back to Gandía and New Year’s eve was cold in Madrid. I also recall of course family, food, fun.

-reading notebook: this has more notes of what done, e.g., read email, reviewed an article, prepared exam questions, ate this or that. Mostly more second level, mind work, some emotions and logical thinking, review of readings. It involved the past and the future, and almost no mention of the weather, the body and not a lot about other people.

– reviewing narrative camera: Took a bit longer to review all the photos than to review my very short short-term memory or the 4 pages of the notebook on that day, but still under 5 minutes. All that came out was less about my body or about mind-emotional-work analysis, and more about bringing to the forefront ordinary moments, such as different chores (e.g., from putting on shoes, washing dishes), nuances in lighting related to how I was feeling at different moments (dark street, sun through window on train). Instead of a focus on the physical, it seemed to bring out interactions with other people, machines, the environment in general.

Reviewing the images made me more aware of those fleeting moments when receiving information, music or audiobooks and even TV and internet. Those moments I usually just enjoy and do not make mental notes that last or jot anything down in the notebook. I had forgotten about a whole 45 minutes when I listened to a philosophy book on the way home! Forgot about so many short moments I watched TV and did internet searches. Those are somewhere in some memory, but too many or too fast for my short term memory or for my hand to write things down, but my brain recalls with the help of those photos.  Useful? It does add to my journaling in quite interesting ways. I think the whole exercise really emphasizes how many memories we have and how much we can gain or lose with simple tools. Also its all kind of fun, at least for me.

Happy new year!



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