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"[1]

Lifestreams are also referred to as social activity streams or social streams.


Lifestreamers are the persons that are publishing their lives (e.g. photos, tweets, videos) on the World Wide Web. "A well-made lifestream website can provide support with organizing one’s life".[2]

On the web

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" of providing lifestreaming.[3]) 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.

Lifestreams also represent a source of information about people's intents that can be mined.[4]

Lifestream Websites

Lifestream websites 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"[5]

However, it is a clear distinction between the act of lifestreaming: the simplified sharing of one’s personal events and experience; and maintaining a lifestream which involves commitment and technical skills: i.e., creating and maintaining a site.

Lifestream Website Experiments

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

Lifestreaming Websites also integrates the digital opportunities an individual could use or inspire from on daily basis.

The "publish then filter" is discussed at length and breadth in Here Comes Everybody. The main focus is on the fact that you can publish anything, as it may be helpful to others.[7]

Before lifestreaming

Diaries and logs

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.[8] [9] "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

Contemporary lifestreaming: transparency and authenticity

The rapid accessibility of one’s lifestreaming activity can provide information of prevalent importance together with being an inspiration for the readers.[2]

Common component of lifestreaming

A common bridge of all concepts of lifestreaming is the gathering of statistical data. With computerized support that simplifies one’s daily choices and activities, it can much easier be identified the common traits in one's behaviour. Moreover, lifestreaming can keep track of budget, calories, physical activity or sleep cycles.[2]

Lifestream as a form of Reputation Builder

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.[10]

Monetizing a lifestream

Monetizing a lifestream was first introduced by author Tim Ferriss. In his books he displays 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 transformed into profit.

Benefits of lifestreaming

Social networking allows 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.[11]

The future of lifestreaming

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 World Wide 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]

World Wide Perspective

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."[2]

See also


  1. Eric Freeman and David Gelernter. "Lifestreams Project Home Page". Retrieved 2009-07-07.
  2. 1 2 3 4 Mullen, Jessica E. (May 2010). Lifestreaming as a Life Design Methodology (PDF). Texas.
  3. Schonfeld, Erick (May 17, 2009). "Jump Into The Stream". TechCrunch.
  4. Schonfeld, Erick (February 15, 2009). "Mining The Thought Stream". TechCrunch.
  5. Mullen, Jessica E. (May 2010). Lifestreaming as a Life Design Methodology (PDF).
  6. 1 2 Kurzweil, Ray. "The Accelerating Power of Technology".
  7. Shirky, Clay (2009). Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations. Boston: Penguin.
  8. Rubel, Steve. "Why Lifestream? To model Leonardo da Vinci diaries".
  9. Wolf, Gary. "The Data-Driven Life".
  10. Engestrom, Yrjo. Perspectives on activity theory (PDF). Cambridge University Press.
  11. Mullen, Jessica E. (May 2010). Lifestreaming as a Life Design Methodology. Texas.
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