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The Shape of Your Life

Because each life is lived one footfall at a time.
  (+25, -1)(+25, -1)(+25, -1)
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Bit of a long one, this. Sorry.

Basically, what I’m envisioning is a GPS device that constantly relays your position to your computer (with unrealistic accuracy). It also includes an altimeter which is sensitive enough to detect even the fact that you’ve just walked up a flight of stairs. All this data is wirelessly sent back to your PC, which thus builds up a precise picture of your movements.

The device is small enough to be worn about your person, and comfortable enough for you to completely forget about it after a while. Perhaps built into a watch or a ring: if it could be built into such a ubiquitous item of jewellery, so much the better. I’d rather not venture into the scary realm of implants with this idea. But it should be something that you habitually wear and don’t really think about. It just quietly sits there, telling your computer exactly where you are. And maybe also looking nice.

So, after a few years, your computer has built up a very precise record of your movements. It’s formed a specific three-dimensional shape out of your day-to-day wanderings, built up from data received from the device. And, using some specially-written software, you can view this image yourself - you can zoom in and out of this seemingly random squiggle, spin it around at your leisure and view it from every conceivable viewpoint. Your house would be so thick with lines that it would appear as a shaded box (you would have to zoom in very closely to determine the particular lines you drew on specific days) – similarly, if you commute to work, that particular offshoot would be as full of interwoven threads as a strongly woven rope.

But then there are places which you only visit once. A vacation, perhaps, or a party hosted by someone you know through a friend-of-a-friend: maybe even a couple of blocks you toured around when you were lost and looking for somewhere else. These appear as random doodles around the shape of your life, strange upstart offshoots which apparently go nowhere but always link back into those old, well-worn patterns. And they show up as cobweb-thin in comparison to the tree-trunk routes of your usual paths.

As I said, you can view all your many travels in one glance on your computer – spin around the shape to take it in in all its three-dimensional magnificence (might be amusing if skydiving is your hobby – more so if you also enjoy deep-sea diving at weekends), zoom out to see the full extent of your travails, zoom in if you want to chart the particular (and precise to the inch) route you took to work on a particular day.

And by the way; you did remember to keep a journal, didn’t you? Every day you wrote a brief account of what happened to you, what you thought about it and what you’re going to do about it. So as well as storing your movements each day, you also tell your faithful PC what was running through your head on that particular day: nothing too taxing, just like a typical diary entry. Zoom in on the Shape of Your Life closely enough, and what you’d thought were just lines resolve themselves into lines of actual text. Your computer has taken your journal/diary entries and stretched them out to cover your movements on that day, in one twisting, banner-like line. Certain places are filled with a cacophony of words, drenched in vociferous memories: other places (like the aforementioned vacation offshoots) have a clear narrative you can follow from beginning to end.

As you view the shape of your life, spin around it and try to discern some kind of meaning in it, you also have an option to settle on a particular line and follow it. Then it is like reading a diary. You follow the text through all the (literal) ups and downs of that particular day, and in the background, you also see the words and thoughts of other days passing you by.

Might help to put things into perspective. Most people have an idea of the direction they want their life to head in: this might help as a kind of diagnostic tool. It would certainly show you what unexpected ruts you’ve fallen into.

lostdog, Jun 26 2003

GPS Drawing http://www.gpsdrawing.com/gallery.htm
[my face your, Oct 05 2004, last modified Oct 17 2004]

Could be Combined With This... http://www.halfbake...oetry_20in_20Motion
...in order to stroll through the contents of your own head. Should you wish to do so. [lostdog, Oct 05 2004, last modified Oct 17 2004]

deja vu home http://www.halfbake...ea/deja_20vu_20home
last week's noises gently looped through your house sound system. [st3f, Oct 05 2004, last modified Oct 17 2004]

Using a GPS watch, XML, and satellite photos http://www.engadget...ry/0141583269424672
Oct 05 2004: here's the recipe to self-bake this [krelnik, Oct 05 2004, last modified Oct 06 2004]

GPS Tron http://datenmafia.o...n/index-english.php
A variation of this where you compete against others in a game inspired by the movie Tron. Track the shape of your movements, but don't cross another person's line. [krelnik, Jan 31 2005]

The Ruts http://www.punk77.c...roups/rutspart2.htm

I can't concentrate
I'm in a state
I don't feel straight
I can't love or hate.
I can't feel nothing
Can't see nothing
Only just learning
I ain't no king.

If your in a rut
You've got to get out of it
Out of it!

[DrBob, Mar 29 2005]

Gizmondo http://www.gizmondo.com/
[hippo, Mar 29 2005]

[link]






       "We're in a rut - we gotta get out of it, out of it, out of it, out of it, out of it..."   

       I like this, especially the lines being your text when you zoom in. +
saker, Jun 27 2003
  

       Shape of my life?
Pear shaped.
  

       Seriously, I kind of like the thought behind the idea - examining ones life ( a la Socrates) - but it does strike me of 'Big Brother' watching you, and examining your life.
Jinbish, Jun 27 2003
  

       Some very pretty animations could be produced from this data.
e.g. Simultaneously showing your progress 7 days at a time at an accelerated rate. spot the two dots hanging around the house for a lazy weekend and the errant dot when you slept through your alarm and spent all day running late. All overlaid on the faded paths of regular trips.
Security concerns aside, beautiful. (+)
st3f, Jun 27 2003
  

       .
thecat, Jun 27 2003
  

       [mfy] You have *FAR* too much time on your hands.
That IF link is truly excellent.
I am not worthy.
gnomethang, Jun 27 2003
  

       *Definitely* pear-shaped.
DrCurry, Jun 27 2003
  

       I don't want "them" to know where I've been, or where I am likely to go. -
ato_de, Jun 27 2003
  

       This makes me think of a mind map, but with the branches drawn by your travels.
FarmerJohn, Jun 27 2003
  

       I love this for the way it weaves a sculptural relationship with time. Aside from any abuse concerns (don't want THEM to know where you've been eh?), this idea has a strong attraction for me. The lines already exist, in a way, because movement is a fact, and is traceable, but we just haven't traced it. I had a vaguely similar thought once about the cross section of the extrusion each person's body would make as it travelled through a tunnel on a train. Till this point in time, is there any empty space left in the possible positions for people to be on the train on that section of track (single use rails--one type of train car)? Is the top grooved with the shape of heads, or has it been totally flattened out by that really tall guy commuting for years on the same line, always standing, always somewhere slightly different?   

       This idea has much more to it though, and I give you my vote for favorite idea I've seen in my short time here. Also, seems like this could be a Robin Hitchcock rambling between song tangent. Well done.
oxen crossing, Jun 27 2003
  

       Ha!   

       I love this!   

       Global Etch-A-Sketch. Wow.
rapid transit, Jun 28 2003
  

       I was thinking about this idea again today, and suddenly realised it would make an excellent add-on to my Poetry in Motion idea (see the above self-publicising link). Instead of viewing The Shape of Your Life on a static computer screen, you could actually physically walk through it yourself by having it superimposed on your VR sunglasses (as described in the other idea). It would be strange to walk through a familiar landscape and actually see your past trains-of-thought hanging in the air all around you. A bit like having an almost-tangible history of your head floating in the air all around you, so you can wander through its wanderings as you see fit.   

       Or imagine revisiting your old hometown after a number of years, and taking a literal stroll down memory lane. Veers a tad toward self-absorbed navel-gazing, I know, but as long as you don’t overuse the sunglasses I think it could be quite enlightening to see your own thoughts in the context of the surroundings that actually formed them.   

       Or something.
lostdog, Jun 29 2003
  

       Add lostdog's VR goggles and this could turn into visual analog of the deja vu home (linked).
st3f, Jun 30 2003
  

       Stil my favorite idea on the HB. Time to drag it out of the depths as an antidote to thoughtlessness.
oxen crossing, Feb 13 2004
  

       Oh dear, I see that I neither commented on nor voted for this idea when I first read it! Troubling, considering it gave me fascinating dreams for the good part of a week. +   

       What's depressing is how high the stack of lines would be over my commute to work and home again.
k_sra, Feb 13 2004
  

       This is a really beautiful idea. I'm rather fascinated by the sculputural sense it gives and with linking spaces. I'm also totally in awe of that "IF" GPS drawing. Amazing! (+)
hazel, Feb 13 2004
  

       I saw a how-to article weeks back that shows precisely how to implement this using current technology including a GPS watch. See link.
krelnik, Oct 05 2004
  

       I'd like a record of my travels on vacation, recorded on a glass globe. One globe each for each significant trip.
neelandan, Mar 29 2005
  

       How sad to see such a beautiful idea suffer so badly from the Great Crash of '04. An obvious bun-magnet.
AbsintheWithoutLeave, Mar 29 2005
  

       This should be an application for the Gizmondo (GPS-enabled handheld games console/ MP3 player/ camera/ phone - see link).
hippo, Mar 29 2005
  

       I thought GPS didn't work on moving targets? That's why the manufacturers of missiles for air craft, never made a GPS bomb. Well, they did, but it could only hit fixed targets. They came up with a solutio however, which are the guided lens bomb, and radar guided bomb.   

       Or so says the history channel.
EvilPickels, Mar 29 2005
  

       Wow, excellent vision. What about combining it with a program that calculates kinetic energy used, so the user can integrate food intake, and arrive at an exercise recommendation based on the subjects' movements?
thelordneedsaleerjet, Jan 21 2009
  

       Dang fine idea.   

       Because each life is lived one football at a time.
popbottle, Dec 07 2013
  

       [+] Baked recently by the NSA, for everyone with a cell phone. The data is classified though.
sninctown, Dec 08 2013
  
      
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