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Lifestreaming is an act of documenting and sharing aspects of one's daily social experiences online, via a lifestream website that collects the things person chooses to publish (e.g. photos, tweets, videos) and presents them in reverse-chronological order.[1]


The term "lifestream" was coined by Eric Freeman and David Gelernter at Yale University in the mid-1990s to describe "...a time-ordered stream of documents that functions as a diary of your electronic life; every document you create and every document other people send you is stored in your lifestream. The tail of your stream contains documents from the past (starting with your electronic birth certificate). Moving away from the tail and toward the present, your stream contains more recent documents—papers in progress or new electronic mail; other documents (pictures, correspondence, bills, movies, voice mail, software) are stored in between. Moving beyond the present and into the future, the stream contains documents you will need: reminders, calendar items, to-do lists. The point of lifestreams isn't to shift from one software structure to another but to shift the whole premise of computerized information: to stop building glorified file cabinets and start building (simplified, abstract) artificial minds; and to store our electronic lives inside"[2]

Before lifestreaming[edit]

The concept existed long before it was first introduced to the public. Globally known public figures like Leonardo Da Vinci and senator Bob Graham were collecting their stream of personal and professional data, an act that could be considered a lifestreaming.[3]

I like to think of a lifestreaming as today’s digital equivalent of Leonardo da Vinci’s notebooks […] da Vinci ‘s recorded notes, drawing, questions and more in his notebooks. Some of these were quite mundane (grocery lists and doodles), others were not. But their body of work was overtime, a view of a one individual’s mind.

— Steve Rubel, Why Lifestream? To model Leonardo da Vinci diaries.[4]

On the web[edit]

Social network aggregators adapted Freeman and Gelernter's original concept to address the vast flows of personal information and exchange created by social network services such as MySpace or Facebook ("web companies large and small are embracing this stream"[5] of providing lifestreaming). Other online applications have emerged to facilitate a user's lifestream. Posterous offered a variety of unique features to enhance its basic blogging function. Tumblr is a similar concept, but with slightly different features.

Lifestream websites[edit]

Websites accommodating of lifestreaming gather together all the information someone wants to display and order it in reverse-chronology. "Each person designs her daily life to some extent-for instance basic time management tools. Putting one’s life online might provide the critical perspective to help redesign it. It is not just an organizational tool, but a tool that allows critical evaluation, reassessment and tweaking daily choice"[1]

However, there is a clear distinction between the act of lifestreaming as a simple form of editorial extension to one's activity stream, and the production of a well-designed lifestream which involves commitment and requires the technical skills necessary to create and maintaining its underlying site.

The increase in people keeping track of their lives digitally is considered by futurologists a step towards artificial intelligence.[6]

The "publish then filter" is discussed at length and breadth in Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations. The main focus is on the fact that you can publish anything, as it may be helpful to others.[7]

Benefits of lifestreaming[edit]

Social networking services allow people to keep in touch with their family or acquaintances while being away from them. The hard boundary between social and professional space is becoming thinner. Consequently, this provides a sense of belonging, security and companionship while being in the workplace with an employer.[1]

Transparency and authenticity[edit]

The rapid accessibility of one’s lifestreaming activity can provide information of prevalent importance together with being an inspiration for the readers.[1][vague]

Data mining[edit]

Lifestreams also represent a source of information about people's intents that can be mined.[8] A common bridge between all concepts of lifestreaming is the gathering of statistical data. With computerized support that simplifies one’s daily choices and activities, it can be much easier to identify certain common traits in one's behavior. Moreover, lifestreaming can keep track of budget, calories, physical activity or sleep cycles.[1]

Social integration[edit]

According to work in Activity Theory, reading one’s lifestream is an act of integration in the community. In an individual’s mind, the needs and interests of other people are ideally seen. Consequently, his or her activity imitates a pattern and through this process an individual is integrated within the community.[9]


Monetizing a lifestream was first introduced by author Tim Ferriss. In his books he presents instructions for designing a business that can self-develop, being convicted that one should live the life he wants the moment he wants instead of waiting for something to happen. With this belief, he propose selling digital information products that can be automated and turned into profit.[citation needed]

Future perspectives[edit]

The act of displaying online real-life experience is increasing the development of artificial intelligence. At the moment, web pages are made to be read by humans. However, in time, Semantic Web, as an extension of the Web, aims to convert information into data to enable computers to read and understand the content. The development of this project will led to machines with artificial intelligence that can assist and work for humans.

Ray Kurzweil, director of engineering at Google, is convinced that media creation and technological advancement are converging to Technological singularity. Hence, today’s development is the first step towards human’s ability to "transcend its biological limitations."[6]

Kevin Rose the co-founder of Digg, talks at length about lifestreaming and the benefits of it, such as the opportunity to organize bits of information and experience in a detailed digital diary. "I can see a world where eventually my children will look back at my [lifestream] data and say: This is Kevin's story—this is where he was on his birthday 10 years ago, and this was his favorite place to eat. Building that profile throughout your life and saving [that information]—I think that is huge."[1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Mullen, Jessica E. (May 2010). Lifestreaming as a Life Design Methodology (PDF) (Master of Fine Arts thesis). University of Texas at Austin.
  2. ^ Freeman, Eric; Gelernter, David. "Lifestreams Project Home Page". Yale University.
  3. ^ Wolf, Gary (April 28, 2010). "The Data-Driven Life". The New York Times.
  4. ^ Rubel, Steve. "Why Lifestream? To model Leonardo da Vinci diaries". Archived from the original on May 28, 2013.
  5. ^ Schonfeld, Erick (May 17, 2009). "Jump Into The Stream". TechCrunch.
  6. ^ a b Kurzweil, Ray (February 2005). "The accelerating power of technology". TED.
  7. ^ Shirky, Clay (February 28, 2008). Here Comes Everybody. Penguin Group.
  8. ^ Schonfeld, Erick (February 15, 2009). "Mining The Thought Stream". TechCrunch.
  9. ^ Engeström, Yrjö; Miettinen, Reijo; Punamäki, Raija-Leena (January 13, 1999). Perspectives on Activity Theory (PDF). Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-43127-9.