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What is a Lifestream?

By Adam Hill
Updated May 16, 2024
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Increasingly, our interactions with other people and the records of those interactions happen through the internet. The idea of the lifestream was born out of the implications of this fact. A lifestream is, put simply, a comprehensive record of a person's daily activities, with an emphasis on those that take place online. It is not only a record, but a chronological view or stream of electronic documents that act as a sort of diary of a person's online life.

It is speculated that the concept of the lifestream had its origins in literature, specifically in the book Mirror Worlds, written in the 1990s by author David Gelernter. He also composed an article for the Washington Post newspaper, describing the lifestream as a system for managing one's electronic information. At the far end of a lifestream would be documents from the past, such as a person's birth certificate at the very beginning of it. Moving toward the near end of a lifestream, there would be more recent documents and interactions, such as emails, photos, voicemail messages, videos, and other types of digital records created by that person.

A lifestream does not necessarily end with the present moment, but encompasses future plans as well. Electronic notes and reminders, calendars, and other items of future importance are included, so that the present moment is more or less in the middle of the stream. Your lifestream can include as much or as little as you like, and is only limited by the amount of effort dedicated to it.

To take the lifestream from a concept to something that is visible in the real world, most people use some sort of online service that aggregates all online activities into one stream of information, where everything can be seen at once. For example, one person may belong to various social networking sites, as well as services through which he posts pictures and videos on the internet, and that might be just the beginning. All of these digital records, though, "live" at different places on the internet, and a large degree of navigating is necessary to see it all.

A lifestream service solves this problem by coordinating interactions with social networking sites, blogs, and everything else that leaves a digital trail online. A person's lifestream, visible in a web page format, catalogs every new update with a time stamp, forming a chronological feed. Many services are available online that allow you to create and personalize your lifestream in any way you choose.

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