Transhuman Home Video

Cheap video cameras are useful if you’re a researcher collecting data, a person archiving memories, or a parent directing obsessive focus on the details of their child’s life.  The subject of this TED Talk takes all of those trends to the next level.

The researcher, Deb Roy, wired every room in his house for video and sound, continuously recorded multitrack audio and video, and made sense of it all with some impressive analysis and visualization software.  He doesn’t just list the words his child learned (as my parents also did), he can track the word through past vocalizations to observe how the pronunciation develops.  (I felt like I could almost hear the interaction between the mechanisms of operant conditioning and mimicry!)  He records the abstractions of interactions (socialization represented as two-dimensional motion with the third access for time, superimposed on a quasi-3D view of the room).  Even recording those moments that are the bread and butter of parental home video, his system captures evocative details that would otherwise been confabulated or overlooked.

What hit me when I was watching this video is that this guy is “remembering” things in a way that is simply not normal for human beings.  Since the data belongs to his family personally, perhaps “public versus private” is not the right aspect to look at, though I’d find it odd were I a visitor in his home.  It seems clear at least that his sense of enduring versus ephemeral is wildly at odds with what would be expected in our society.  And none of the technology he’s using to do this is particularly obscure (still on the expensive side, but orders of magnitude cheaper than it would have been a decade ago).

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