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Want to join the millions of people already broadcasting their breakfasts, pets, and street-art finds on Instagram but don’t want to mess with your iPhone? A new clip-on camera from the Swedish company Memoto makes lifecasting (or “lifelogging,” as they refer to it) as easy as getting dressed in the morning.
The Memoto Lifelogging Camera is a square of plastic a little less than an inch and a half square with a tiny circle on the front that exposes the camera lens. The product’s rounded edges and smooth colors appealingly bring to mind iPod Minis, which is definitely the proper market for such a device. Metal clips on the camera’s back provide an easy way to clip it to a collar or shirt button. The Memoto takes two five-megapixel pictures a minute tagged with GPS data and lasts for two days on a single charge, operating 24-hours a day. It even has an accelerometer to make sure the photos are the right way up. When the camera is hooked up to a computer to charge, it uploads its cache to the cloud, allowing users to access their life facsimiles from anywhere on earth.
I guess that’s what’s creepy for me about the product, which just blew past its $50,000 goal on Kickstarter with 37 days still to go. Sure, we all like to archive specific moments in our lives in the form of Facebook status updates, photo albums, and Instagram posts. Past generations did the same in journals and diaries, or with books of snapshots or polaroids. There seems to be something different, certainly more extreme, however, about having a minute-to-minute library of everything that ever happened to you.
With the help of Memoto’s browsing app, which somehow places emphasis on important moments, the device can “give you pictures of every single moment of your life, complete with information on when you took it and where you were. This means that you can revisit any moment of your past.” It’s that last part that makes me feel weird, personally. It’s not like our lives and memories are video games that we can explore at will, in any level of detail we choose. Given that Memoto’s archives will be exhaustive, how do you choose what to remember?
The camera brings to mind the concept of “prosthetic knowledge,” defined by the art-inclined Tumblr of the same name as “information that a person does not know, but can access as needed using technology.” Memoto would create a kind of prosthetic memory; not only do you not need to know the names of the Great Lakes because you can Google them, you don’t even need to remember anything that happened to you — the camera and its digital library will do it for you.
24-hour-a-day lifecasting was previously the provenance of a few out-there members of the artistic and technological communities. Check out Wafaa Bilal’s 3rdi project, in which he had a camera biologically implanted in the back of his head (his body later rejected the camera, and he ended up wearing it more like a Memoto-style accessory). But newer, simpler technology like the Memoto or Looxcie or uCorder make lifecasting mainstream. Social networks are building day-to-day records of our thoughts and feelings, but it’s another thing entirely to have complete photographic histories floating around in the online ether. We’re not quite at that point yet, but if this is any indication, we will be soon.