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  • 2017-05-29

    Public defence of thesis: a register of life

    Imagine spending 36 years documenting every dream you have, taking a photograph of every object you hold in your right hand and filming every public place you sit in. This is the focus of Alberto Frigo’s project, on which he has already spent 13 years. The public defence of his thesis, “Life-Stowing from a Digital Media Perspective: Past, Present and Future” will take place on 2 June.

    Alberto was studying at university in his homeland, Italy, when it became apparent that he had a great interest in finding ways to continually document his life. However, this was a cause of frustration, due to the standard of technology at the time. 

    Alberto Frigo“I was among the first people to attach computers and cameras to the body, attempting to document life every hour of the day. What got me interested in this method of documenting my life, which later came to be called lifelogging, was that it was criticised in a number of news articles and scientific papers. People thought that it infringed people’s privacy and that there were surveillance risks, as well as companies that would try to sell the information,” explains Alberto.

    A somewhat controversial thesis 

    Alberto’s thesis is different to others and can be perceived as a little controversial; he has his own project as part of its methodology. In 2004, Alberto started a project that will continue until 2040, and in the project he photographs every object he holds in his right hand, photos which then become a register of his life. He also documents and writes down his dreams, films new people he meets and public places in which he sits. One of the aims of his thesis has been to clarify the difference between “automatic” lifelogging, such as when you attach a film camera to your clothes and record everything, and the more “artistic” type, which is more manual and where active choices are made, such as whether to take a photo or write something down. 

    Surprising results 

    One approach that Alberto has used to try to understand how people regard this more artistic type of lifelogging is an art installation using materials from his 13 years of self-documentation. Thirteen people visited the installation and read his notes about his dreams, saw pictures of the objects he had heldAlberto Frigos konstinstallation in his right hand, and films of different people around the world.

    “The theory was that people would understand me as the installation’s creator, but the result was very different. People experienced a form of unity, they experienced the material as a unification of a reality that may otherwise feel fractured and distorted. My type of work is usually regarded as something very narcissistic, but the result of the installation had nothing to do with the representation of myself. Instead, people had seen it as a way of creating a complete image of reality, an opportunity for people to see a final reality together.” 

    Leading the way to future research 

    Alberto’s thesis is innovative in many ways. He is proud of the different approach used and hopes that it is something that will inspire others to think outside the box.

    “I believe that others can continue with similar research and be more active, instead of being a traditional doctoral student. If there’s something to learn from the way in which I did this research, it’s to also inspire others to be active researchers, particularly in the humanities, becoming more aware of our surroundings by using active methods. It may seem artistic, but it’s actually largely about documenting, tracking and monitoring things. It’s about creating an awareness about the world we live in and trying to present an overview of it.”

    More about the public defence of thesis 

    Read about the public defence in Södertörn University’s calendar.