Alberto Frigo: A 36-year Tracking Project

AlbertoFrigo_RHand

“I’ve been systematically tracking my life since the 24th of September, 2003.”

A little over 10 years ago Alberto Frigo embarked on an ambitious project, 2004-2040, to understand himself. Starting with tracking everything his right (dominant) hand has used, he’s slowly added on different tracking and documentation projects. Keeping the focus on himself and his surrounding has helped him connect to himself and the world around him.

Beside the more technical challenges ahead, I have learned how much we can engage in tracking and quantifying ourselves. I have learned that I am what I track and in this respect what I track shapes my life. I believe that every individual can activate him or herself to record his or her life and create a playful engagement with an otherwise dull surrounding. In my opinion then, it is a very healthy commitment as it makes us more aware as well as more engaged with our everyday life.

At the 2014 Quantified Self Conference Alberto led our second day opening plenary, which focused on “Tracking Over Time.” We invite you to watch his talk and read the transcript below to learn about his plans for the next 26 years and what hear what he’s learned through this process.

Transcript
Good morning everyone and thank you for inviting me to this inspiring and well organized event! My name is Alberto Frigo, I am 34 years old, and I was born in a small village in the Italian Alps but I have spent most of my life abroad doing media research and living in Northern Europe, North America and China. Currently I live in Sweden where I have been systematically tracking my life since the 24th of September 2003. I clearly remember that day: it was very sunny in Stockholm, but I felt very frustrated since I was about to start a residency the following day and the wearable computer I had for two years designed to record my life was not working. I was walking through the city with my frustrations when I passed by a tiny store selling dusty photographic equipment. In the middle of it there was a brand new and tiny digital camera. I immediately gave up all my frustrations with the clumsy wearable I had so far been constructing, and just got that very camera to start photographing every object my right hand use.

It has been more then 10 years since I have started that project, to be precise today the 11th of May 2014, is my 3.882nd day I have been photographing every object my right hand uses. With this project, my idea is to track all my daily activities that I do through the very objects I utilize to accomplish them. In total, I have been photographing 295.032 activities, an average of 76 objects a day and one picture every 15 minutes, depending on how busy that day has been. I have also discovered that, if I keep up the project until I turn 60, I will have photographed 1.000.000 objects and could thus claim to have some kind of DNA code of my life, or at least of the core of my life as a mature individual. I like to see this code as made of a continuous sequence of repeating elements, the objects I use as the letters of an alphabet which can give rise to different patterns and understandings.

In this respect, I have embarked on a 36 years long project, from 2004 to 2040, and new kinds of self-tracking projects, or life-codes have naturally come about, mostly in order to compensate the photographic tracking of activities. After a few years, in 2005, I have also started to consider to keep track of myself looking at other perspectives and using different other media such as recording my dreams through writings and recordings the songs I listen to through musical notations. Additionally, I also started to keep track of my social surrounding and the weather. I thus ended up, for example, filming every public space in which I seat and keeping track of the wind when I am outdoor. At this point of time I am conducting 36 different projects to record my life… as many as the years I mean to undertake the project. 18 of these projects are actual tracking of either myself, or the surrounding or the weather and 18 of them are elaborations, like books, gadgets or exhibitions I make about them… not the least this very speech and other meta projects like a virtual memory cathedral I will present in the office hour section after lunch.

To give you an idea of what I am up to these days, I can tell you what I have accomplished so far. Beside recording 295.032 of my activities by photographing the objects my right hand has used with this camera, I have been tracking 12.360 dreams, 5.440 songs that I have heard and recognized using this phone to keep track of them, 620 portraits of new acquaintances using this camera, 285 square meters of discarded objects picked from the sidewalk using this pouch to collect them, 1.512 news of casualties, 15.660 films of public spaces where I seat using this video-camera, 7.560 drawings of ideas, 2.760 recordings of thoughts while walking alone using this recorder, 1.704 shapes of clouds and so forth. By the way this the USB where all my work is stored, always on me.

It was not immediate to be able to track so many things at once; I have learned that one has to start with something basic and simple and then add up to new perspectives and tracking technologies, preferably crafting his or her framework. “From one thing comes another” then but I am also interested to keep up all the projects, more as some sort of a challenge in addition to simply a tool to later make sense of my life. I feel in this respect like the character of a computer game, with a mission to accomplish and this is really my drive in life, conduct these 36 tracking projects till I am 60, in 2040 then, 26 years ahead of me. 26 years in which new challenges arise such as the fact that the technology I have been deploying, like my camera, is already out of production. Well, one ought to act providently and myself, I have got a box full of these refurbished cameras… so lets just hope the operating system now won’t change too drastically in the coming years!!

Beside the more technical challenges ahead, I have learned how much we can engage in tracking and quantifying ourselves. I have learned that I am what I track and in this respect what I track shapes my life. I believe that every individual can activate him or herself to record his or her life and create a playful engagement with an otherwise dull surrounding. In my opinion then, it is a very healthy commitment as it makes us more aware as well as more engaged with our everyday life.

Saying this however, I have to warn you that it is important to give priorities also in what we track. I mostly give priorities to the tracking relating to myself, giving less priority to other forms of tracking, particularly to those forms that are more dependent to the social surrounding and I cannot control. With these priorities in mind I am rather positive that I can succeed in my self-exploration and the exploration of the world through myself, sharing my experience as time passes by and new insights are gained. I really hope my ten years old experience and commitment can be of inspiration of you. Please feel free to approach me so that I can photograph you as my 621st new acquaintance. Thank you!

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