I wanted to write an update to my Narrative Clip experience as I’ve received many questions and have had more time to get to know my new camera as well as experience wearing it and noting how others react to seeing the camera. (Edit: Read my previous post here).
Some history: I ordered my Narrative on Kickstarter back in 2012 when it was still named Memoto. I made it into the first round of backers, and my cam was estimated to arrive by February 2013. I ordered the Graphite Gray color option and received my unit on December 10, 2013.
What’s it Feel Like to Wear a Narrative Clip?
I started off initially very aware of the fact that I have a camera on. I learned pretty quickly that I need to have an “elevator speech” ready for those who ask what that thing on my shirt is. My answer has evolved as I hear others’ questions; the current version is something like this:
It’s called a Narrative Clip, and it takes a photo automatically every 30 seconds. Those photos are only visible to me — they don’t get broadcast anywhere. It lets me capture neat things like a beautiful sunset the other night. If it makes you uncomfortable, please let me know and I’ll be happy to take it off.
A couple of people have asked if it records sound, and I told them no, and they seemed relieved. So far no one has asked me to take it off. However, I have some family, friends and acquaintances that I am quite convinced will not be comfortable with the cam, and I will likely either just ask them right away or simply put the cam away when I visit them.
Yes, there is awkwardness around wearing the Narrative. This technology side of lifelogging is so new that there isn’t a guidebook as far as how to handle the privacy issue. We will be the people whose experiences help write that guidebook. I am continually asking myself “is there a reasonable expectation of privacy here?” when I go places. While there are obvious places one should avoid wearing the Narrative (restrooms and locker rooms), there are many gray areas. Just like “common sense” isn’t common, what is reasonable to one person may not be to another.
And there’s the fact that once you’re used to wearing the camera, it’s easy to forget you’re wearing it. I was appalled to realize I had gone into a women’s restroom with my Narrative on. Now, since women’s restrooms (in America, at least) typically have stalls that are private, there was nothing photographed other than a blur of myself in a mirror, I was still feeling guilty and immediately pocketed my Narrative. However, I’m hearing the woman in the stall next to me chatting away on her phone, and that makes me think that the privacy features of our devices and surroundings in general have to evolve. Until then, we users have to be fastidious about when and where we are using our lifelogging gear.
So the psychology of wearing lifelogging devices is complex. I want to be able to wear a camera and forget it, sort of like I do with my Fitbit, but I can’t do so because others are affected. If I forget my Fitbit, at worst, it might end up lost or in the toilet, but if I forget my Narrative, I might end up invading someone’s privacy; that’s a big difference and a big concern to me.
What’s the Experience with the Technology Been Like?
The company has been very communicative and responsive regarding feedback I’ve given them. The downside to being one of the first to receive my Narrative is that I’m serving as a bit of a beta tester. There have been some bugs, as is to be expected with any new software, and Narrative has been very appreciative of feedback and has quickly pushed through software and firmware updates to help correct issues.
As I mentioned in my previous post, I have a very slow Internet connection. The homeowner has since contacted AT&T and maxed out our U-Verse Internet plan, and the speed test results are still very poor: 5.57 Mbps download and 0.71 Mbps upload speed. To put this in perspective, Speedtest.net is currently giving me a national grade of D and a global grade of C-. Other times that I’ve checked it’s been an F and F+, respectively. Prior to this last upgrade, I was finding that my Narrative uploads were taking hours and appearing to slow down the Internet for other users at home.
My speed issues aren’t Narrative’s fault, yet the company has made some helpful upgrades to the software that allow users like me to limit the speed when using a slow connection. Most users will have better Internet options than I do, and I’m still able to upload my photos and view them just fine. What I typically do is plug my Narrative into the computer late in the evening and just let it upload the photos and spend the night charging.
I also have AT&T for my phone, and I’ve had no complaints with my phone service. When I’m not using WiFi, my phone alternates between 4G and LTE. Occasionally, there is lag in the Narrative app even when I switch off WiFi on my phone, but for the most part, I can view the photos on the phone just fine. When there’s a delay in viewing the photos on the app, it looks like the pic to the right.
I’ve been wearing my Narrative every day. There have been some unexplained hiccups in the app. For example, I have photos under December 22, and then the next set of photos is from December 25 (see screenshot). What happened to my photos from December 23 and 24? I have no idea.
As far as the quality of photos goes, the outdoor photos typically turn out very clear and true in color. Indoor lighting poses some challenges, however, with the colors in pictures sometimes varying a good bit from capture to capture.
What do I Like Least About the Narrative Clip?
I have faith that the people at Narrative will work out the bugs with missing photos and occasionally photos under the wrong date. My two biggest lingering disappointments are that:
- I can’t trust that the pictures I want are being captured. For example, the other day, my boyfriend Craig and I went to Newport Beach. We walked down a pier and saw a brown pelican drawing a little crowd. I walked up and stood for a while in front of the pelican. Since I had no way to know if the Narrative had captured the bird, I did several double-taps. Later, on reviewing my photos for the day, there was only one image of the pelican — sadly decapitated. I don’t know whether that image is from one of several double-tap attempts or was an automatic one. Since I don’t yet have confidence in the double-tap photos, I took a photo with my iPhone. I don’t want to have to do this backup with a phone cam, though, and that’s one of the reasons I purchased a wearable camera. I want to have confidence that the Narrative has captured the image. Other times double-tapping has led to fuzzy images of my fingers as I’ve apparently been unable to get them out of the way in time. I’ve tried various methods of double-tapping, and I can’t seem to find a reliable method.
- A wide-angle lens is really necessary. I know Narrative has voiced that they will be coming out with this accessory sometime in the future. After wearing the cam for a couple of weeks, I have many pictures that would have benefited from a wide-angle lens. I’m leaning toward thinking this should be standard rather than an accessory. Regardless of where I place the Narrative, I end up with many pictures of sky. Apparently, this isn’t a challenge only for women.
What do I Like Most About the Narrative Clip?
There have been some expected uses for the camera and some happy surprises:
- My Narrative has captured some beautiful images. Some of these pictures I would have undoubtedly taken with my iPhone, but others were spontaneous and would have been lost — like reaching across the table to hold my boyfriend’s hand or massaging lotion into his sore hands after he worked all day on retiling our bathroom. In reviewing holiday photos, I see candid images of friends and family that I know won’t be with us forever. I saw myself writing a personal message on my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary card. These are really precious records that I will treasure.
- I have an automatic record of the process of creating my art. I’ve always had great intentions to photograph every piece of art in progress, but the reality has been most end up without progress photos because I’ve always had to remember to get the camera and then take time to photograph the art. Now I simply review the photos from the day and grab the ones that will make good progress photos. There is no need to interrupt the creative process to take photos.
- I am made more aware of my bad habits. I’ve had a lifelong struggle with severe nail biting. There have been periods in which I’ve successfully grown long, beautiful nails, and other periods (like now) in which my nails are downright hideous. In reviewing photos, I was noticing just how many images there were of me feeling my nails for imperfections (which then leads to biting). Now that I have an automatic record of my art in progress, I don’t want the photos of nail-bitten hands creating that art. As a result of this increased awareness, I’ve doubled my efforts to reduce stress and conquer this habit once and for all. Will lifelogging tools like the Narrative Clip help change user behavior? You bet they can and will.
- I am more aware of the quality of my life. We aren’t all Sir Richard Branson, jetting around the world and breaking world records. I have a simple life, but I love my life. Devices like the Narrative make you ask yourself if you’re living the life you want to live. Are you following your dreams? Are you still finding joy in those “mundane” tasks that you have to do every day? After all, even Richard Branson gets stuck in traffic and has to floss his teeth. The Narrative highlights simple moments of joy, and it also makes me want to get out there and live a bigger life — a life worth remembering. Are there mostly pictures of my computer screen, a television or ceilings? Well, then I need to have more balance in my life.
Despite the cons I’ve mentioned above, I am very happy with my Narrative Clip and satisfied with the company’s communication throughout the long wait. Yes, I’ve been as impatient as everybody else, and there have been times when I was really wanting an accurate shipping update. However, I appreciated Narrative’s honesty in admitting that the initial units were not up to snuff. Although I wanted to get my cam back in February 2013 and I’ve missed some important dates (like my only niece’s wedding) that I wanted my Clip for, I am glad they didn’t send out units that they knew were faulty. That transparency did help me be more patient with the wait.
For those still waiting for your shipments, know that we who have our clips are helping work out some of the frustrations you would have with your Narrative. Hopefully, yours will come soon, and you’ll be just as satisfied overall as I am.
I’ll leave you with some Narrative photos (click for bigger image) of varying quality and lighting conditions for you to check out:
Read my previous post: 24 Hours with the Narrative Clip