Lifestream: Curation or Chaos?

(a conversation between Jen and Siân)

Jen: I’m finding it useful to think of the lifestream as a process of curation – like a museum curator, whose job it is to collect, combine and contextualise artefacts. Part of what we will be assessing is the extent to which students’ lifestreams as a whole demonstrates something insightful and coherent about their understanding of digital culture, learning and digital technologies, and their engagement with the course content. The choice of items and the end of week and end of course summaries should tell a story of their experience of and contribution to the course.

Siân: I agree with Jen up to a point – the curation metaphor is useful, but again I think it raises the question of agency. ‘Curation’ implies a level of control and choice which is only partially true of the lifestream, which is quite a complex negotiation of the user’s choice and the determinations of the technology. To me, it has something in common with automatic writing in the way in which it mixes-up the sense of where the ’stream’ originates. Personally, I find this quite exciting – I like Poster’s suggestion that in working with these kinds of ideas we (deliberately, productively) introduce an element of ‘chaos to the souls of those online’. : )

Jen: Maybe it depends to an extent on how different students are approaching their lifestreams. For those who are bringing in feeds that they use for other things – their regular Twitter accounts, for example, or Delicious bookmarks – they’ll be dealing with a rushing river of content which may be chaotic and out of control. For others who are creating accounts specifically for the course, there may be quite a lot of control and choice involved at least in the ‘what’ if not the ‘how’ of the lifestream. That’s interesting, maybe – the ‘how’ is much less under control for everyone, since so much is decided in the interface between the feed and the lifestream. Like being a curator in a fun-house – one with all those funny mirrors and angles.

Siân: Nice metaphor, which makes me think that different analogies are going to apply to everyone’s use of (or by) the lifestream. I guess the point is that everyone should feel they have enough control to choose where on the chaos-structure continuum they’d like their stream to be. I hope everyone feels they can work the environment in this way (if not, help is at hand…).

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12 Responses to “Lifestream: Curation or Chaos?”

  1. silvanad says:

    Curation or chaos – I think it is a bit of both. I aspire to curation but at the moment I am still grappling with what the stream can technically reflect. One thing it is not capturing at the moment is my process while I am reading. I know I can synthesize my reading in a blog but, for example, yesterday I was outlining Poster’s article and that is not reflected in my stream. That is my reading process – I outline an article using MindManager – to understand the writer’s argument and then I reflect. Sometimes while outlining it triggers ideas which should go in the stream. I think with Tumbler, I could extract a quote and make a quick comment but I am not that familiar with Tumbler. I suppose I could do that with the blog. It is just getting comfortable with playing with these tools.

    And will this comment appear in my lifestream! Probably not. Better copy and paste.

  2. [...] Curation or chaos – I think it is a bit of both. I aspire to curation but at the moment I am still grappling [...]

  3. sibyller says:

    This was a helpful dialogue. I was tending more to the curator to use the lifestream as an illustration of the work on this course, but to just let anything “drift” in does give a more accurate picture of our involvement with computers, and by reflecting on this in the blog we are trying to make some sort of sense of this.

  4. jen says:

    Interesting point about comments being lost to the lifestream, Silvana – I’m going to look in to this, as I think there must be a way to allow you to bring your comments in as an RSS feed… will explore and report back!

  5. andym says:

    I like the idea of both curation and automatic writing. I have now taken the Lifestream concept on board to another level. I’ve now set one up for work. As a development manager, I am for ever scribbling notes in my diary or scrap paper – meetings, comments, thoughts. They’re immediate at the time. But I have no clear methodology for reviewing this data afterwards. I wonder if a Lifestream, in cateloguing my comments by date, will enable me to review and analyse my immediate ramblings.

    Keep you posted.

  6. Thank you for posting this chat – v. handy ;)

    I have been aiming for a curated direction but I think there is an element of basic weeding around a wild garden such is the inherant chaos of bringing in my regular Twitter and Delicious items.

    What I will be doing is making sure I make some sense with my weekly summary. I actually looked at 2.5 years of my Google search history today and it showed me trends and habits I didn’t know I have… most intriguing… I will have to see if my lifestream is similarly painting a different picture than it feels like I’m creating.

  7. sian says:

    A garden, a catalogue, a ‘drift’ as well as an act of curation or automatic writing…nice analogies all. I like the idea of the lifestream making some kind of statement about, or pattern from, the chaos, with the blogging working to kind of consolidate that. (And 2.5 years of Google searches – that would be *really* interesting!)

  8. [...] an interesting discussion between Sian and Jen two metaphors about the nature of the lifestream were analysed: curation and [...]

  9. billb says:

    I’ve taken another look at my lifestream so far and can safely say that the concept of curation doesn’t work for me. A curator not only should be in total control of his/her material before he/she begins to “collect, combine and contextualise artefacts” (Jen) but also he/she has the ability to place these artefacts in any chronological order he/she sees fit. In contrast, we are only just beginning to get a grasp of this course block’s material and we cannot control the chronological order of our lifestream.

    I find Sian’s idea of “automatic writing” less troublesome but still not appropriate, mainly because automatic writing is not a product of conscious thought and I am sure that we are all investing quite a lot of conscious thought on what should be imported in our lifestreams and what should be left out.

    For me the closest metaphor is “stream of consciousness”; that’s also the first term that came to mind when I was introduced to the concept of lifestreaming. I see my lifestream as a fragmentary presentation of my thought processes during the course, one that might not initially make a lot of sense (cue “chaos”). But I hope that what initially looks chaotic, will turn out to contain concepts and patterns and connections and maybe even a core of order.

  10. Tony McNeill says:

    An interesting post from Jen and Sian on the lifestream but I’m not sure I accept either of the two metaphors used.

    I tend to view curating is a purposeful assemblage of contextualised artefacts for an audience. Use of the Eduspaces (Elgg) presentation tool for collating blog posts for IDEL a year or so back seemed a better example of curatorial activity (retrospective sense making, selection and organisation).

    As for automatic writing, I still see it as a surrealist experiment with accessing/publishing the unconscious – ça parle (the id speaks) . However quickly composed, I don’t think anyone’s Twitter feeds constitute écriture automatique in the sense that Breton, Man Ray and assorted misogynist 30s pranksters would understand it.

    So, how do I see the lifestream? More mixed metaphors coming up as I think we engage with the digital in laminated or layered ways and we leave a trace or residue of that engagement which is partially visible and can be made more so.

    Full comments on my blog http://digitalculture-ed.net/tonym/2009/10/04/reflections-on-my-lifestream/

  11. [...] week on the official course bit of the Digital Cultures blog Jen and Sian had a natter about the Lifestreams which made me have a proper think about what I am collecting and [...]

  12. [...] my LifeStream. Only, it’a  bit long isn’t it? Well I guess it relates nicely back to Jen and Sian’s Lifestream conversation. So What I think I will do is faff around with these postings and cluster them in themes and see if [...]