I interviewed Microsoft researcher Gordon Bell for Wired's September issue. We chatted for several hours about his new book Total Recall and his project to capture and catalog much of his life in digital form. From my story:
Since 2001, Bell has been compulsively scanning, capturing, and logging each and every bit of personal data he generates in his daily life. This trove includesWeb sites he's visited (221,173), photos taken (56,282), emails sent and received (156,041), docs written and read (18,883), phone conversations had (2,000), photos snapped by the SenseCam hanging around his neck (66,000), songs listened to (7,139), and videos taken by him (2,164). To collect all this information, he uses a staggering assortment of hardware: desktop scanner, digicam, heart rate monitor, voice recorder, GPS logger, pedometer, smartphone, e-reader...Even cooler, Wired hired illustrator Nicholas Felton to create the above graphic, which visualizes all of Bell's bits. Feltron, as he's called, is known for quantifying his own life into awesome-looking "annual reports."
After the disappearance and presumed death of a friend, computer scientist Jim Gray, Bell combed through thousands of files to find forgotten photos and stories he was then able to arrange into a powerful slide show for Gray's memorial.
Bell's data dump is more than just a glorified photo album. By using e-memory as a surrogate for meat-based memory, he argues, we free our minds to engage in more creativity, learning, and innovation (sort of like Getting Things Done without all those darn Post-its).