What if the device could send us images of how we look when engaged in games or messages or email or whatever else people do on their devices? What would we learn if we saw ourselves the way the machines might see us? Alan Levine
Alan points us to something I had not considered when watching In Limbo. The POV of the device. On reading his response to my initial post I was left thinking about the potential use of our devices for learning about ourselves. I often write and talk about this potential. The fact that our devices remember and see us as we are, rather than with the overlay of the self-aggrandising narrative that is characteristic of human experience from the inside, can enable us to learn about our habits and blind spots. Only if we choose to be open to it and look for what is there for us to see.
I can use a simple example: recommendations on my streaming video provider. I might have sophisticated ideas about Mariana the scholar and the type of films she watches. A quick scan to my recommendations tells me that I watch mostly science fiction. I know I like science fiction, I did not know that I watched that almost to the exclusion of any other genre. Just an observation, no value judgement.
What our devices see (both literally and metaphorically) can be a place for self development.
And of course we are not the only ones reflecting on this. There is an app for that.
Lifeslice was developed by Stan James. It takes your photo every hour and ‘can record a host of stats about your time in front of the computer.’
The more arrogant amongst us might ask why we need this. After all, we all know what we do in front of our devices, don’t we? Well, we don’t. Cognitive psychologists spend their life gathering data about how unaware we are about the processes that drive our behaviour. We think we know and that is the most fundamental cognitive error we make in life.
Here is what a recent course on thinking which reviewed the latest cognitive science data had to say about this,
Who better than ourselves to know why we do what we do, what's important to us, and how we feel? But it seems that we're largely oblivious to the determinants of our own behaviour, we misjudge how long tasks will take, we think of ourselves as exceptional and unique, and we don't know what makes us happy. Think 101 - Predicting Badly
You still doubt me? Watch this for a summary of the experimental data.
Of course we do not need Lifeslice to take photos, it is just an example of how we can use our ‘individual and collective memories in the Internet era’ to increase our self awareness rather than just find ourselves constantly ‘fingers swiping, or tapping, and [rarely displaying] an emotion’. We can review our work, we can organise it, we can track our browser histories with a critical eye to habits that may be unhelpful… and all of this requires that we engage with our devices with the conscious and purposeful intention to attend resisting the divergence or not, but choosing.
We always come back to ‘we have seen the enemy and it is us’.