I’m sitting across from an older man in a navy blue coat and a red sweater in the crowded Stockholm metro, on my way to celebrate a friend’s birthday. Unremarkable, except that I’m recording it all with a Memoto Lifelogging Camera on my lapel.
The man and I do our best to avoid eye contact. This is going well until I start fiddling with the camera, concerned it’s not shooting straight ahead. This catches his attention and for a second he takes in the small gadget. The prototype’s transparent shell exposes the components inside, but the man looks away and doesn’t seem overly concerned.
When you use nascent technology, there is by definition no behavioral precedent. Since I work for Memoto, I’ve been thinking for quite a while about what it will be like to actually use the camera. As I venture out with a Memoto Camera for the first time, I try not to interact with it. The device is meant to keep me from being distracted, as I would be if I was thinking about photographing them. (The camera works by automatically taking 5-megapixel images at 30-second intervals.)
But it’s impossible not to interact with the Memoto. Swedish winters require bundling up in multiple layers. I have to move the camera from my coat to my shirt when I arrive at the restaurant, and then back again when I leave. I have to adjust it when my collar flips it toward the wall. Being concerned with it stresses me out.
At the restaurant, my dinner companions are immediately curious and a discussion develops. “How are you supposed to use it?” I explain that there is no “right” way; the task at hand is simply to enjoy myself. I hold it up in front of each friend to take a deliberate photo and then place it at the end of the table pointed toward us for a while. Eventually, I clip it back on my shirt and leave it alone. I decide that next time I’m going to try wearing it on a lanyard.
One friend asks, “Why would anyone want this?” I explain that I’ve got about 15 half-empty journals in my childhood bedroom. Each time I bought one I resolved to use it a few times a week until it was full. I love going back through them, but I’m always disappointed when I reach the end, which is usually somewhere in the middle of whatever story was unfolding in my life at the time. I have a hard enough time remembering what I ate for breakfast, let alone what was happening years ago. So the potential to have a photographic journal to review my life months and years from now is what excites me the most about Memoto. I’m sure others will have alternate uses, but I see lifelogging as a way to streamline my memory.
As exciting as it is to wear the camera for the first time, viewing the photos is even better. They range from fantastic candid shots to uninteresting ones, like half of my friend’s head or pictures of the table. The latter are not necessarily photos I would share, but they are the ones that will jog my memory tomorrow, in two weeks, or five years from now. Collectively, the end result is fascinating, especially from the standpoint of using the Memoto App as a visual journal.
Shots remind of me of what I ate (a Caprese salad) and the chance encounter I had with an old university friend. They even capture text messages I sent and received throughout the night. The memories are clearer with photos to trigger them. I wonder what parts of the evening I would have forgotten without them.
Most of us can only remember a tiny part of our experiences and often we don’t know which ones will be worth remembering. While I may not really care to see the guy sitting across from me on the subway again, I’m looking forward to being able to preserve and review moments that hold more emotional weight.
Sarah Massengale is the Community Manager at Memoto.