To illustrate the idea that lifestreaming can be a life design methodology for wellness, I chose to print the majority of my lifestream and wallpaper a room with it for my MFA thesis exhibition. The exhibition was intended to reveal the enormity of published material in my lifestream.
I chose to print and categorize my lifestream posts so that I could visualize how much time I spent on each category, and identify milestones along the way. I categorized the posts by placing a different transparent layer of color on each category of posts. Posts that were related to food were colored yellow. Posts related to spirituality were colored purple. Posts about exercise were coded red. Financial posts were green. And lifestream design posts were covered with a teal color. I also hoped to demonstrate that by lifestreaming, I was able to direct the path of my life in specific ways for each lifestream category.
After hanging my printed lifestream in the gallery space and seeing the entire thing at once, I realized that the majority of my lifestream updates are about what I’m eating. This was disturbing to me initially, because I had hoped for a more well-rounded display. But as I thought about it, I realized it was an ideal result. Eating is something everyone does, usually multiple times a day. What we eat affects every single area of our lives, from our health to our self-esteem to our productivity. For me, figuring out how to eat right was the first step I needed to take on my own path to wellness. I am pleased to have the lifestream installation communicate to other people the importance of food awareness.
Discussing the installation with visitors at the gallery opening showed me that the installation helped people better understand exactly what a lifestream is, but did not necessarily make them want to lifestream themselves. The large amount of food photos in particular created discussion of how mundane it can be to see what other people are eating. The food photos were effective in that manner though–it seemed like an effective way to begin a conversation about the issue of healthy eating, without having to pass judgement on the visitor’s own eating habits.
I wish to augment David Gelernter’s original concept of the lifestream, though not by suggesting a code-based or technical modification. I propose a theoretical shift which positions the lifestream as a holistic life design methodology for wellness. To design one’s life is to creatively plan and execute a desired, habitual pattern language for living. By tracking and discussing daily habits and activities, we expose routine and patterns and are able to critically evaluate them. Making them visible and open to discussion is a step towards change and development. We can regain control and take responsibility for all actions having to do with wellness in one’s life. So much of wellness stems from being disciplined to make good choices, and lifestreaming makes every decision matter.
As we become more connected to each other through the Internet, we increasingly become a single organism of information and action. The Internet may enable us to transcend reality as we know it, by connecting us together to form one entity with millions of individual perceiving nodes. Transparent, public and authentic communication of personal experience can have profound effects on the individual, and may encourage collective social action when a critical mass of behavioral change occurs. I call my lifestreaming practice “utopian lifestreaming”, because I am aware of the risks and consequences of publishing so openly, but believe we can achieve a healthier and happier society by understanding the individual realities of every single person. Translating that understanding into language a computer can understand may contribute to the Technological Singularity, when transcending our biological limitations would mean a sudden, radical improvement of health for all.
In aggregate, billions of people, worldwide, updating their status will transcend what some may call a fad to become something much more meaningful - a massive archive of quantified human behavior. What might the world would look like if everyone was a lifestreamer? If we could quantify and experience the lives and unique perspectives of every person in the world, what understanding might we gain? If 6,000,000,000 people were to lifestream on a regular basis, not only might that trigger Kurzwell’s Technological Singularity, but enable anyone to instantly quantify all human behavior for any given moment in time. Power hierarchies as we know them would collapse. We could all effectively “take the pulse” of the world–and not just for marketing purposes!