Lifelets – Brief glimpses of daily life

Inspired by Gordon Bell‘s lifelogging suggestions in Your Life, Uploaded: The Digital Way to Better Memory, Health, and Productivity, I checked out the free app Animoto.

It is rare that an iPhone/iPad app both intrigues me AND goes into my daily use it routine. Animoto is the first app in a long time that does both. It is the perfect tool to energize the inert digital photos that clog up my iPhone, iPad and desktop hard drives.

Just three steps to a joyous creation:

  1. Select photos and videos
  2. Customize the style and music
  3. Share and enjoy

And all with just a few taps and swipes on the iPhone.

The joy of the smart phone is that my camera is always with me.  Unlike the fifty other digital cameras of all shapes and sizes that I’ve bought over the years, the smart phone is just a grasp away. The collecting of photos is easy. Yet, the making meaning with them other than a quick post to Facebook or Twitter or an email is much harder.

I cringe every time I think of the months of work it would take to cull through the thousands of photos and videos to organize, select, curate, tag and annotate in order to do something with them.

Then along comes Animoto. In little more time than it took me to take the photos, I can now create a beautiful and engaging little lifelet – a snapshot of daily living. Now I have something that I can quickly share that is more than just the glance I would share in an email. With the simple and quirky Animoto templates combined with a wide range of musical styles, I can bring a smile or some tears of joy to my friends and family.

All of a sudden the burden of resurrecting my inert digital detritus becomes the joy of spending ten minutes deciding on my lifelet theme of the day, selecting some photos that fit and then sharing it. I’ve got hundreds of ideas already.

Knowing that I can quickly produce a lifelet with Animoto, I find the way that I look at the world is changing as well. While walking to the Seattle Sounders game the other night and joining the flow of the “Rave Green” fans, I just had to capture the crowds for a future lifelet. I am seeing differently. Instead of just snapping a photo (or worse, not even taking my smartphone out), I look for lifelet photo opportunities. I am exercising my flipped perspective.

My colleague, David Robinson, suggested that we start doing larger themed lifelets. We are challenging ourselves to capture moments of generosity or courage or paying it forward. We are envisioning contests where we novices share our lifelet creations.

Here are a few of my lifelet creations:

As I created these lifelet vignettes, I was reminded of the video compositional technique of Paul Ryan which he shares in his Nature in New York City documentary. Paul describes his creation of his compositional technique on his website Earthscore:

“Because I wanted a notational system for video that was responsive to the totality of the environment, I was attracted by the comprehensiveness of the categories of firstness, secondness, and thirdness as developed by the American philosopher Charles Peirce (1839-1914). Following Kant, Peirce subscribed to the architectonic theory of philosophy (Apel: 1981). By architectonic, he meant the art of constructing systems, i.e., uniting manifold ways of knowing under one idea. The idea or concept of a formal whole determines a priori both the scope of the manifold content and the positions that the parts occupy relative to each other. This unity makes it possible to determine, from our knowledge of some parts, what other parts are missing, and to prevent arbitrary additions. Knowledge can grow organically, like the body of an animal.

“For Peirce, knowledge corresponds to three modes of being: firstness or positive quality, secondness or actual fact, and thirdness or laws that will govern facts in the future. Peirce held that these categories of being are phenomenologically evident to anyone who pays attention to what happens in the mind. Direct observation will produce these categories of knowledge.

“Firstness is positive quality. The taste of banana, warmth, redness, feeling gloomy: these are examples of firstness. Firstness is the realm of spontaneity, freshness, possibility, and freedom. Firstness is being “as is” without regard for any other.

“Secondness is a two-sided consciousness of effort and resistance engendered by being up against brute facts. The “facticity” or “thisness” of something, as it exists, here and now, without rhyme or reason constitutes secondness. To convey the pure actuality of secondness, Peirce often used the example of pushing against an unlocked door and meeting silent, unseen resistance.

“Thirdness mediates between secondness and firstness, between fact and possibility. Thirdness is the realm of habit, of laws that will govern facts in the future. With a knowledge of thirdness we can predict how certain future events will turn out. It is an ‘if…then’ sort of knowledge. Thirdness consists in the reality that future facts of secondness will conform to general laws.

“When we attempt to interpret a natural site with a video camera, we are confronted with ‘everything.’ We need to make selections. If those selections are arbitrary, the final tape can leave out significant aspects of the ecosystem. Significant omissions can make the interpretation of the site faulty. Peirce’s categories of firstness, secondness, and thirdness are, in effect, a theory of everything. Using these comprehensive categories, it is possible to make selections that are responsible to “everything” at the site. The way in which Peirce’s categories can be used to organize video perception of ecological sites is evident in my videotape titled Nature in New York City (Ryan: 1989a).”

On an off day from conferences and sales calls, I visited Paul in his New York City apartment to better understand his video techniques. Paul shared several examples with some of the most stunning coming from Junior High students that Paul taught the technique to.

Ryan in a paper on Relationships makes his abstract ideas concrete by reflecting on family relationships in the context of firstness, secondness, and thirdness:

 “Look at the differences between children, parents and grandparents in a family system that works. Children can bear no children. The mythic story of a girl-child born pregnant is not an account of actuality. In their actual life, children are biologically free to pay attention only to their own sense of life; they do not have to hold in mind offspring that need care. We can say that children are in the position of firstness: that is, of freshness, of spontaneity, of being such as they are without regard for any other. Parents are in no such position. They must react to the needs of their children, resist some of their care-free ebullience, contain their activities. Parents are in a position of secondness.

Parent and children firstness

“Grandparents are in a position to contain the interaction between parents and children. Their understanding of both the position of firstness and the position of secondness from experience enables them to balance the interaction between parents and children, to keep it from getting caught up in confusion. There is a special bond between grandparents and grandchildren. The grandparents, freed of the burden of interaction with the world by the parents, can renew their sense of wonder and share the freshness of life with their grandchildren. The grandparents are in a position of thirdness.

grandparents thirdness

“The course of one’s natural life is a continuous passage from the child’s position of firstness through the parent’s position of thirdness. Hopefully, the grandparents position of thirdness is blessed by healthy contact with loving children. I want to map the essential differences in this life passage by changing our diagram from three circles to one continuous tube that penetrates itself.”

relational circuit

Ever since viewing Nature in New York City and understanding the compositional algorithm of the relational circuit, I’ve wanted to create a software tool that would do video compositions automatically. Animoto’s themes are so close to implementing this technique. All that is missing is observing the world through the lenses of firstness, secondness and thirdness and then tagging the images and videos with these categories.

I wonder if I can author an Animoto theme?

So as you wander the world today with your smartphone, what are the lifelets that are surrounding you? Download Animoto, take some photos, and create your lifelet today. And don’t forget to share it with friends, colleagues and family.

For a humorous look at the wonderful world of innovation and new ventures, check out Fl!p and the gang at Fl!p Comics.

This entry was posted in Flipped Perspective, Lifelet, Lifelogging. Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Lifelets – Brief glimpses of daily life

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