Nivedit Majumdar Nivedit Majumdar

Beyond the Quantified Self: Using the Data

Self tracking and self betterment have always been at the helm of affairs as far as the Quantified Self movement is concerned. More than anything, the simple activities of tracking data, viewing the aggregated data in the form of graphs and then using them for self improvement constitute the true essence of the Quantified Self movement.

While the job of building sensors and tracking algorithms is the job of the wearable manufacturers, a question constantly arises from newbie lifeloggers: how to use all the data? In this article, we try and break down some of the complexities as far as the data usage is concerned, and I take a look at how first time lifeloggers can use the Quantified Self to truly improve their lives.

ALL THE DATA!

An underlying concept in the Quantified Self movement has always been the collection of data. Be it in the form of sleep data, fitness data or even how much time you’ve used on your device (hint: we’re talking about Instant!), data is everywhere, and companies tap into these data flows.

 

Tracking user data is not a new concept by itself. YouTube is a very basic example which takes into account your viewing history and accordingly suggests videos you might find interesting. Companies design advertisements and promotional campaigns after studying the habits of their customers or target customer group, and organisations are now inculcating data tracking algorithms into their workforce to study the behavioural habits of their employees to enhance the potential and ergo output of the company.

So the bottom line is this: If other companies are using your data for their betterment, what’s stopping you from using your data for your own betterment? The answer to this paradox is provided by the Quantified Self movement.

STEPPING TOWARDS SELF IMPROVEMENT

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So here’s QS 101 for the newbies: what to do with all the data? Well, to start with, define your goals. This can be either long term goals, or short term goals, which will push the lifelogger to keep going and hoping to achieve the next goal.

In fact, gamification within the Quantified Self movement has been of paramount importance for quite a few Lifelogging and QS based platforms. I’ve actually used a few goal defining applications such as Lift and HabitRPG which are simple applications that enhance the overall experience of goal definition.

There’s a nice tool called AskMeEvery which I came across. It allows you to ask questions to yourself regarding your goal achievements. Personally, during my school and college days I always used to make plans for the holidays, but after the exams when the holidays did come half my plans lay forgotten, as I got busy with friends or something else. Plus, this tool uses the concept of writing an email to your future self. This practice bridges the gap between actually deciding the target to achieve, and actually achieving it.

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The next step would be to filter the data. A lot of data is generated by the tracking devices and sensors, and it is up to the lifelogger to determine which data would be suitable according to the goals defined. For example, insomniacs can track their sleep patterns over a given period, try out new lifestyle orientations to enhance their sleeping patterns and see the results. The lifelogger can include those habits which improve the statistics within their daily routines, and the changes will be evident very soon.

In fact, biohacking is a science which is catching on very quickly, and people are going beyond tracking mere sleep and fitness patterns – they are also tracking blood glucose levels and other bodily functions.

Step three would be to correlate the data Like I’ve said, a lot of data is being generated, and the lifelogger must not be overwhelmed. Once you get confused, you tend to lose interest, and the practices of lifelogging and self tracking amount to virtually nothing.

The key is to correlate the data received with the habits or factors which influence the data, and to inculcate the factors which bring about positive statistics. It’s just like studying for an important exam: analyse your strengths and weaknesses, work on your weaknesses to bring them at par with your strengths, and then work on all facets in a balanced manner.

It’s like doing a SWOT analysis, but in this case the target subject is, well, you! A valid example in this regard would be the Emberify founder’s own story regarding personal analytics.

USING THE DATA FOR THE FUTURE

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Once you have defined goals and are correlating the data with the factors influencing them, you are actually using the data that is being generated to your benefit. It is like a delicate symbiosis – the data is being generated by the lifelogger, the lifelogger studies the data and improves his/her self, and the data further generated is used again.

In fact, this plays a major role in healthcare too. Personalised treatment can be availed more easily if the doctors or concerned healthcare personnel have access to the user’s data, and the treatment’s chances of being effective are improved greatly.

AN INFINITE LOOP?

Tracking oneself, using the data to improve oneself, and then again coming back to tracking – we’re seeing an infinite loop here, right?

Not exactly. This is where the goal definition comes into play. Once the goal is achieved, the lifelogger is free to either curb down on the lifelogging practices altogether (like Nicholas Felton did just recently), or work on a new goal for self improvement. Either way, the lifelogger is the boss of his/her life, and the data tracking algorithms and sensors are merely tools to achieve the goals.

TO CONCLUDE

Either way, Lifelogging and the Quantified Self are closely interlinked with one another. Defining goals, working on the data and correlating the data generated with the influencing factors can prove the defining steps in developing your Quantified Self!

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