Lifestreaming: Passively Propagating Your Personal Story

Lifestreaming seems to be one of the hot new technology memes today, which is interesting considering the topic surfaced some five or more years ago as the consumer-created media model began to emerge-- easy capture + easy publishing = easy authoring of a digital life story in installments. Blogs took on the role of platform for "lifestream of consciousness" for some digital natives, and microblogging added fuel to the fire.

Playing in multiple social networks allowed us to create overlapping (sometimes contradictory) versions of social lifestreams in a passive fashion--the sum total of all of your pokes, friendships, notes, videos, gifts, food fights, support of popular causes, etc. create a somewhat fictional, extroverted lifestream. The recent GPS boomlet has added yet another layer of context, putting our actions on a map, adding space to our otherwise flat digital life stories, showing where we have been, instead of where we should have been.

Now the convergence of all of these platforms and technologies, overlaid with the race to be super-aggregator of all of our open data, means we may not have to actively blog at all: our actions are snaffled up by one of a half-dozen or so lifestreaming "feedsuckers" to continually churn out an updated record of your online and (thanks to location-based services, other people, and data aggregators) offline activities - a true Daily You.

What's the next step? Aggregation seems sorted--we only have to publish in the right format and our feed is collected a dozen times over for use updating status messages across the Web. Once the friction is taking out of publishing (and we're halfway there - down now to only having to crank out 140 characters and hit "send"), the focus will shift to passive collection that requires little or nothing of you. What about an iPhone app that listens to your conversations as you go through the day, plucks out choice phrases and clever thoughts from your chatter and pushes them up to platforms of your choosing--sort of a mobile PA meets biographer. Do you lead a compartmentalized life? Perhaps we'll be able to block access to only certain stories or data points from the view or collection of particular people or services? Why block a whole feed when you can just scrub the offending article? When will our avatars, Miis and other digital representations merge with these streams, flowing into a churning river of personal data?

I actually suspect the technology is already outpacing desire for such services. Doing field research last year among teens, one theme that emerged was a desire to focus on actual friendships versus nurturing a larger number of digital friendships just because they could be collected and contained easily through technology. Broadcasting to everyone may be easy to set up, but it doesn't yet yield any real social value beyond short-term some social capital gained through an exchange of access. As we are now seeing with Twitter being used as a broadcast platform for information in short form, the same scaling back and turn toward utility may occur with the components of lifestreaming--enabling a personal information platform that is focused around particular applications. Parent-to-child, peer-to-peer, directed personal narrowcasts with a purpose. Now that I would invest in.