I got my first smartphone, a Nexus S, back in early 2010 when I was living in Cambridge, UK. Impressed by the novelty of the beers there, I started snapping photos of taps and bottles:
When I uploaded these to Picasa, I discovered, gloriously, that my phone had been saving location data, and Picasa automatically displayed all the beers I had drank on a map. Thus began a phase of life documentation. I retroactively included some older photos from adventures in India and Southeast Asia:
The pattern of documentation became to record, with a picture, every time I drank a new beer (new for the album) in the location that I drank it. Shortly, as is the nature of repeated patterns, this started to turn into a more than documentation of my normal behaviour, but a game to drink unusual beers in unusual places. First I was excited about tracking down beers in unusual corners of the world:
Then, the context of the photo began to be important as well, here a photo of the Finnish beer Karhu in a relative’s sauna north of Tampere, just before I jumped into the ice-cold water:
Here, a temporary tap from Kingston’s Brew Pub, a 9% alcohol brew made for the Royal Military College that they were just finishing the last keg of:
Soon, the context of the photos became important as well. Representing a snapshot of a moment in my life. While the beer was the foreground, the initially-incidental background began to take on more meaning, often cryptic and personal. For me, running through all these photos is like having the last couple years of my life pass through me at high speed:
To date, I have over 300 beers on the beermap, spread over 3 continents and 12 countries:
(sorry, not embeddable apparently)
It has become obvious that this isn’t documentation to me any more – it is a game. I actively seek out new and unusual beers and places to drink them. One of the high points of my stopover in New Zealand was that I was able to drink new beer there – otherwise a 48-hour stopover in New Zealand is fairly pointless as Auckland is no different from any other big city, and I didn’t really get to explore the countryside.
Close friends of mine have become used to rolling their eyes as I grill servers and bartenders about their beer selection, or lean over patrons at the bar to take pictures of taps from just the right angle.
So, spontaneously a few days ago, I decided to give up beer for 2013. This came into effect immediately for the last couple days of 2012. Worry not – I have not decided to give up all forms of alcohol. I know shockingly little about wines and other liquors, so 2013 will be the year of learning about them. This also doesn’t mean the beer game is over, I am just removing it from my life for a year.
It was becoming, not necessarily worrying, but intriguing how much the beer map was affecting my life. It started as just the recording the joy and new experiences of my life, but eventually became me striving to create a life increasingly extremely fitting according to some rules I had come up with in 2010. This defeats the purpose of gamified life-logging.
But, worry not, for I have started something new. When I went off to Oceania in October, I started growing a beard out. I initially shaved everything except my chinstrap, since that used to be the only un-embarassing part of my facial hair. I started growing everything grow in the beginning of December. Eventually, when I hit 80 or so, I definitely want a super-wizard beard; some mix of Gandalf, with Anderson Cooper hair on top. By this time I expect my hair to have grayed, so I would like to know what my beard looks like while it is still coloured (In 2010, I was delighted to discover ginger hairs at the tips of my month-beard)
The growth of The Beard shall continue until at least Halloween 2013 untrimmed, which I have special plans for. So far, I have had to make special exceptions for 3 poorly-behaved moustache hairs, but I hope these are lone occurrences.
To document this beard, I am taking a picture each day. I don’t want this to take over my life as much as the beer game, so I’m not going to force myself to do it exactly each day or from exactly the same angle. I will try to get a different person to do it each day, because I just couldn’t help but gamify it a little bit. So far, this has easily been close friends who have been around, but I imagine deeper into this project I’ll have to start harassing strangers to take pictures of me. Right now, I have delusions of creating some high-speed video of all the images, with the photo-taker’s names on each image. But the rules of the game could always change, and probably will.