On life-logging in Source

In the current issue of Source you can read my account of meeting life-logger Cathal Gurrin, a researcher at DCU who has been wearing a camera and recording his life for almost eight years now.

‘Life-Image-Data’, Source, 78 (Spring 2014), 12-17


From Cathal’s camera there is a flow of information wirelessly transmitted back to a central databank. It strikes me that gathering a succession of still images is somehow a little quaint, and that constant video might be more useful. As would sound. But apparently there are no hardware devices that could manage the collection and storage of so much data, for the eighteen hours a day when Cathal has his own still-flashing device turned on. And the recording of sound is the thing which people really object to. They’ll accept their image being taken, but they will balk at the notion of their conversation being recorded. Even so, I ask Cathal, why photography, and why in this way? Would a more determined, pre-planned set of images, one which posed the programming problems they were setting out to solve, not be more practical? They need, he tells me, ‘real-world life images’. This phrase stays with me, a kind of Ballardian neologism for a way of seeing the world, acknowledging that it’s there but transmuting it into something else, overlain with the acceptance that it is inherently impossible to know it directly. I hear in the phrase, though not in Cathal’s usage of it, an implicit phenomenological lament and a revelation of the glorious representational difficulty of photography in general.



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