We’ve always referred to the Quantified Self movement as a disruptive procedure to bring about a process of self improvement – of one person, regarding some aspects that the particular person might possess. There’s an application ecosystem too, and sensors which constantly record the data pertaining to vital statistics. We know the drill, the algorithm of the Quantified Self.
But, let’s look at the bigger picture. Bringing about self improvement is not a one day process, and it is certainly not a one man/woman job. For bringing about change requires guidance, encouragement and feedback from people who are actually worth their salt in the line.
So in this article, I won’t talk about sensors involved, hardware development or software algorithms. I talk about the more humane aspect of the Quantified Self movement – that of involving the community as a living, breathing ecosystem to bring about self improvement.
REVISING THE BASICS
So before we actually get to the meat of the matter, let’s take a look at all the bells and whistles constituting the concepts of Lifelogging and the Quantified Self movement.
Gadgets and sensors are the recording devices – the sensory organs, if you will, to gather in data about a person. This data is aggregated through web based or other aggregation services, which are in turn connected to each other through mobile platforms and apps. But the human aspect? That comes in the form of meetups and forums.
And in essence, the Quantified Self movement is more of a “show results and recordings, seek prognosis and diagnosis” flowchart. Even in the actual QS meetups, the patrons work on a ‘show and tell’ system wherein they show the data that has been collected to individuals, and seek guidance on how the results can be improved further.
BRINGING PEOPLE IN
When we say refer to the Quantified Self as a ‘movement’, it’s not just implying that it is a political movement, or a revolution. Instead, it simply amalgamates a lot of individual mindsets together, lots of cluttered data streams together into one huge river of data through which people can gather vital knowledge.
Involving the community has been at the fore for multiple organisations in the Quantified Self movement. For example, there’s Lift. A simple application that I’ve used quite often, it enables individuals to list out their goals and track their progress. Users can see other users’ goals or aspirations, and prop them to egg them on to achieve their goals.
A fitness startup GOQii is actually pioneering the involvement of experts in the Quantified Self movement in India. When you buy their fitness band, you can actually subscribe to monthly or annual plans which entails you to interact with experts (aka coaches) regarding the data that has been collected from your band. This is perhaps the most important USP of the brand in India, as it bridges the divide between data collection and data analysis.
Community involvement is at the helm of affairs in multiple startups and organisations working not just in Quantified Self, but also in other verticals such as e-commerce and social networking, of course. For example, Indian e-commerce corp Flipkart has incorporated an Instant Messenger client within their shopping application to enable patrons and consumers to interact with others while shopping, to see if they’re making a right purchase.
But let’s not deviate. The Quantified Self movement has been spearheaded by the involvement of multiple individuals sharing the same mindset. And the reasons are quite elegant and simple, to say the least.
THE PURPOSE OF MEETUPS
I was reading an article the other day by Aristea Fotopoulou, a Lecturer in Media, Sociology at the University of Lancaster. In the article, she effectively describes as what the key purpose of meetups and community involvement is in the Quantified Self movement.
She states that meetups enable the exchange of information regarding stories of successes or failures of lifelogging practices, allow people to connect and form synergies around common interests, and explore wider concerns. And let’s face it, what would the Quantified Self movement be if it weren’t for a dialogue established between a lifelogger and an expert regarding the data that has been collected?
This also raises the question of privacy, the sanctity of the data that has been collected: wouldn’t it be a violation of ethical principles if data of such personal nature is divulged readily and discussed upon?
The key factor to consider in this case is that every lifelogger has data of different natures. They all face different (and similar) problems, and they might have individually tried some techniques or strategies to overcome their problems.
As I’ve said before, the onus is to bring together multiple data streams into one huge river of data. Information from multiple sources, once analysed correctly and discussed upon extensively, can convert to insight which will benefit more than one individual within a group.
Quoting top QS honcho Gary Wolf here, the Quantified Self movement is not about small data, or big data, but our data. Data and information can be improved if they are shared, if they are discussed upon by experts and experienced professionals, if they are experimented upon by multiple parties. And the most efficient way this can be carried out is through community involvement in the Quantified Self movement.
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