Tag Archives: art

Laurie Frick: Experiments in Self-tracking

As much as we talk about self-tracking being about health or fitness. . . I think it’s about identity. I think it’s about us. It’s about seeing something meaningful in who we are.

Laurie Frick is a self-tracker and visual artist. It this unique combination that has led her down a path of learning about herself while using the data she collects to inform her artistic work. What started with time and sleep tracking rapidly expanded to included other types of data. In this short talk, presented at the 2014 Quantified Self Europe Conference, Laurie explains how her past experiences have informed her new way of thinking about data, “Don’t hide. Get more.”

If you’re interested in Laurie’s artistic work I highly recommend spending some time browsing the gallery on her website.

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Alberto Frigo: A 36-year Tracking Project

AlbertoFrigo_RHand

“I’ve been systematically tracking my life since the 24th of September, 2003.”

A little over 10 years ago Alberto Frigo embarked on an ambitious project, 2004-2040, to understand himself. Starting with tracking everything his right (dominant) hand has used, he’s slowly added on different tracking and documentation projects. Keeping the focus on himself and his surrounding has helped him connect to himself and the world around him.

Beside the more technical challenges ahead, I have learned how much we can engage in tracking and quantifying ourselves. I have learned that I am what I track and in this respect what I track shapes my life. I believe that every individual can activate him or herself to record his or her life and create a playful engagement with an otherwise dull surrounding. In my opinion then, it is a very healthy commitment as it makes us more aware as well as more engaged with our everyday life.

At the 2014 Quantified Self Conference Alberto led our second day opening plenary, which focused on “Tracking Over Time.” We invite you to watch his talk and read the transcript below to learn about his plans for the next 26 years and what hear what he’s learned through this process.

Transcript
Good morning everyone and thank you for inviting me to this inspiring and well organized event! My name is Alberto Frigo, I am 34 years old, and I was born in a small village in the Italian Alps but I have spent most of my life abroad doing media research and living in Northern Europe, North America and China. Currently I live in Sweden where I have been systematically tracking my life since the 24th of September 2003. I clearly remember that day: it was very sunny in Stockholm, but I felt very frustrated since I was about to start a residency the following day and the wearable computer I had for two years designed to record my life was not working. I was walking through the city with my frustrations when I passed by a tiny store selling dusty photographic equipment. In the middle of it there was a brand new and tiny digital camera. I immediately gave up all my frustrations with the clumsy wearable I had so far been constructing, and just got that very camera to start photographing every object my right hand use.

It has been more then 10 years since I have started that project, to be precise today the 11th of May 2014, is my 3.882nd day I have been photographing every object my right hand uses. With this project, my idea is to track all my daily activities that I do through the very objects I utilize to accomplish them. In total, I have been photographing 295.032 activities, an average of 76 objects a day and one picture every 15 minutes, depending on how busy that day has been. I have also discovered that, if I keep up the project until I turn 60, I will have photographed 1.000.000 objects and could thus claim to have some kind of DNA code of my life, or at least of the core of my life as a mature individual. I like to see this code as made of a continuous sequence of repeating elements, the objects I use as the letters of an alphabet which can give rise to different patterns and understandings.

In this respect, I have embarked on a 36 years long project, from 2004 to 2040, and new kinds of self-tracking projects, or life-codes have naturally come about, mostly in order to compensate the photographic tracking of activities. After a few years, in 2005, I have also started to consider to keep track of myself looking at other perspectives and using different other media such as recording my dreams through writings and recordings the songs I listen to through musical notations. Additionally, I also started to keep track of my social surrounding and the weather. I thus ended up, for example, filming every public space in which I seat and keeping track of the wind when I am outdoor. At this point of time I am conducting 36 different projects to record my life… as many as the years I mean to undertake the project. 18 of these projects are actual tracking of either myself, or the surrounding or the weather and 18 of them are elaborations, like books, gadgets or exhibitions I make about them… not the least this very speech and other meta projects like a virtual memory cathedral I will present in the office hour section after lunch.

To give you an idea of what I am up to these days, I can tell you what I have accomplished so far. Beside recording 295.032 of my activities by photographing the objects my right hand has used with this camera, I have been tracking 12.360 dreams, 5.440 songs that I have heard and recognized using this phone to keep track of them, 620 portraits of new acquaintances using this camera, 285 square meters of discarded objects picked from the sidewalk using this pouch to collect them, 1.512 news of casualties, 15.660 films of public spaces where I seat using this video-camera, 7.560 drawings of ideas, 2.760 recordings of thoughts while walking alone using this recorder, 1.704 shapes of clouds and so forth. By the way this the USB where all my work is stored, always on me.

It was not immediate to be able to track so many things at once; I have learned that one has to start with something basic and simple and then add up to new perspectives and tracking technologies, preferably crafting his or her framework. “From one thing comes another” then but I am also interested to keep up all the projects, more as some sort of a challenge in addition to simply a tool to later make sense of my life. I feel in this respect like the character of a computer game, with a mission to accomplish and this is really my drive in life, conduct these 36 tracking projects till I am 60, in 2040 then, 26 years ahead of me. 26 years in which new challenges arise such as the fact that the technology I have been deploying, like my camera, is already out of production. Well, one ought to act providently and myself, I have got a box full of these refurbished cameras… so lets just hope the operating system now won’t change too drastically in the coming years!!

Beside the more technical challenges ahead, I have learned how much we can engage in tracking and quantifying ourselves. I have learned that I am what I track and in this respect what I track shapes my life. I believe that every individual can activate him or herself to record his or her life and create a playful engagement with an otherwise dull surrounding. In my opinion then, it is a very healthy commitment as it makes us more aware as well as more engaged with our everyday life.

Saying this however, I have to warn you that it is important to give priorities also in what we track. I mostly give priorities to the tracking relating to myself, giving less priority to other forms of tracking, particularly to those forms that are more dependent to the social surrounding and I cannot control. With these priorities in mind I am rather positive that I can succeed in my self-exploration and the exploration of the world through myself, sharing my experience as time passes by and new insights are gained. I really hope my ten years old experience and commitment can be of inspiration of you. Please feel free to approach me so that I can photograph you as my 621st new acquaintance. Thank you!

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Conference Preview: Tracking Over Time

We’re fascinated by self-tracking projects that extend over long periods of time, and at the upcoming QS Europe conference we’re going to hear from two artists who have been making work out of novel personal data extending back for years. Since 2004, Alberto Frigo has taken a photograph of every object he holds in his dominant hand, as part of a 36-year tracking project that includes collecting many other types of evidence and observations.

AlbertoFrigo_RHand

Joining Alberto in our Sunday morning  plenary session will be the artist Danielle Roberts, whose Reversed Calendar goes back in time to 2005 and contains eight years of mood and stress data, along with photos, micro diary entries, and poetry.

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We hope you’ll join us in Amsterdam for the QS Europe Conference on May 10 and 11 to meet Danielle, Alberto, and other self-trackers and tool makers coming to share their work.

 

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What We Are Reading

We’ve collected another fun batch of reading for you. Enjoy!

High tech in vehicles puts drivers’ privacy up for grabs by Karl Henkel.The cars we’re driving are collecting, storing, and in some cases, transmitting all sorts of data. What are the implications of cars as computers?

Are Companies tracking us, or merely “observing” us? by James Robinson. Another privacy piece here. When large corporations collect consumer data are they able to understand us individually, or are they just making observations about general patterns? Don’t forget, we’ve been down this road before.

Here’s what happens when a data scientist goes to Disney World by Derrick Harris. Apparently the theme to start the list this week is consumer tracking. This article takes a look at the newly implemented “Magic Band” system at the Disney World Resort. Disney is clearly leading the field here, but experience augmentation based on personal data is coming very soon to a store near you.

NBA players start wearing wearable health trackers by John Comstock. Not a surprising move here by the the NBA to equip players with wireless healthy and activity tracking systems. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen self-tracking technology being adopted by professional athletes. I for one am looking forward to watching basketball games with integrated player data visualizations.

Self-surveillance: Should you worry or simply embrace your personal data? By Laurie Frick. A great piece here by our friend, Laurie Frick. Laurie is an artist based in Austin (and part of the Austin QS meetup group) that uses self-tracking data as the inspiration for her various artistic explorations. In this piece she explains her work and he feelings about self-tracking.

Home Automation is an EasyHard Problem by Scott Jenson. I’m a big fan of the Internet of Things and look forward to a more connected future. However, maybe our ideas about what is possible are misguided. In this short piece Scott explains that it’s possible we’re not properly classifying the actual problem at hand,  “[...] humans are messy, illogical beasts and simplistic if/then rules are going to create a backlash against this technology.

Summer Internship in Advanced Analytics. Our friends at Pew are looking for interns to work on advanced analytics and data science. We’d love to see a member of our QS Community help them out.

Visualizations of the Week

brianhouseEternal Portraits by Brian House. Facebook uses facial recognition algorithms to know what their users look like. At one point they exposed that data to users as part of the data export feature. Says Brian, “The information is unusable in its raw form without knowing the specifics of Facebook’s algorithm. But as an irrevocable corporate byproduct, the future implications of such data remain unclear.

 

 

xkcd-d3XKCD-style Plots in D3 by Dan Foreman-Mackey. Not a complete visualization per se, but this example demonstrates how to manipulate D3 to show plots in the style of the great Randall Monroe of XKCD.

 

 

 

fb_loveThe Formation of Love by Carlos Diuk. The Facebook data team crunched the numbers and started to learn what happens as users fall in and out of love.

 

 

 

 

Visualizing Health. A great new project from our friends at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and their collaborators at the University of Michigan. Browse the galleries to find scientifically vetted visualization techniques related a variety of health information situations.

From the Forum

Reporter App Question
Drowzy: app made by Board certified Psychiatrist and Sleep Medicine Expert
Fitness tracker and Jawbone Up data analysisa
Sentiment analysis on my own writing
Best iOS app to track water/coffee/alcohol intake?

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What We Are Reading

Here we are again. Another week and another great list of articles, projects, and posts. We hope you find these as interesting as we did.

Data Science of the Facebook World by Stephen Wolfram: “I’ve always been interested in people and the trajectories of their lives. But I’ve never been able to combine that with my interest in science. Until now.” Stephen Wolfram sets his mind and data crunching services and the mounds of data available through the Wolfram|Alpha Personal Analytics service.

There’s an App for That by John-Paul Flintoff:  While many people write about QS, every once in a while a piece stands out as a thoughtful and personal assessment of the meaning of self-tracking. The only major fault with the piece is the accompanying illustration which proclaims that “the overexamined life is not worth living,” a conclusion the article does not actually make.

Disciplinary Power, the Oligopticon and Rhizomatic Surveillance in Elite Sports Academies: Elite athletes and sports programs push Quantified Self tools to their extremes. This article from an academic journal about surveillance discusses the tracking mechanisms employed in elite sports academies that transform performance into a type of numerical language that contributes to new social norms, personas and senses of the self

Refugees of the Modern World by Joseph Stromberg: A common cultural signature in the world of the Quantified Self is the formation of loose-knit groups around common interests and conditions. So it was fascinating to learn of a tight-knit group that has formed around the choice of a common environment in which to live. This is the stort of a self-diagnosed group suffering from “electromagnetic hypersensitivity” who live together in an area of West Virginia in the U.S. National Radio Quiet Zone.

Body 01000010011011110110010001111001 by Stanza: Artists have been playing with connecting #quantifiedself and “smart city” technologies for several years. I think projects like this are useful for opening new channels of thought not yet constrained by utility.

Goggles Can Provide Vital Data and Distraction by Matt Ritchel: Google makers incorporate data streams into heads up displays. But why include text messages? That seems like a mistake.

Thanks  to Joshua Kauffman and Gary Wolf for contributing to this weeks post! If you’ve found something interesting be sure to send it to us and we can post it in the upcoming weeks.

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Self Expression From Performance Data

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Typically when we think about Quantified Self and the associated collection and visualization of personal data we’re left struggling in the world of charts, graphs, and other well-worn visualizations. That’s not to disparage those of you who love spending some time tinkering in Excel. Those are valuable tools for understanding and there is a good reason we rely on them to tell us the stories of our data. It’s important to realize that those stories rooted in data aren’t always just about finding trends, searching for correlations, or teasing out significant changes. Sometimes data can represent something more visceral and organic – the expression of a unique experience.

Vincent Boyce is a an artist and designer who spends his free time riding on asphalt and water. Those experiences on his longboard and surfboard led him to starting thinking about how his rides, his performances, could be used as inputs for generating art and “exposing the hidden narrative.” After some tinkering with hardware and software Rideware Labs was born. Vincent has designed and built a prototype sensor pack and custom interface that ingests data from his riding and outputs unique visual representations. As you can see above, these aren’t your typical bar charts.

In his great talk filmed at the New York QS Meetup Vincent describes his motivation behind building his prototype system and his goals for future versions.

This is a great first step in turning data rooted in performance into artistic representations of self-expression. What do you think? What kind of data would you like to see hanging on your wall as works of art? Let us know in the comments!

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Cristian Monterroza: My Autobiography Through Quantification

Cristian Monterroza felt like his life was slipping in a direction that he didn’t like, and was inspired to start tracking by the amazing lifelogging project of artist On Kawara. Cristian started out using several different apps, then created his own app to passively record his daily activities, called wrkstrm. In the video below, Cristian shares the insights he gained from six months of building a self-tracking autobiography, and asks us to consider if we are recording the right things. (Filmed by the New York QS meetup group.)

Christian Monterroza – Autobiography Through Quantification from Steven Dean on Vimeo.

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Numbers from Around the Web: The Simple, Wonderful Art of Tracking

This is a special NFTAW post on a  project we think is full of insight and beauty.

For those of you that were lucky enough to attend the first European Quantified Self conference this past November in Amsterdam you know how inspiring our good friend Laurie Frick can be. Laurie is a visual artist who meticulously and beautifully morphs her own self tracking data into wonderful pieces of art. Personally I find her large scale mood wall installations to be just jaw-dropping.

Phenomenal in her own right, imagine how surprised we were when Laurie emailed us earlier this week to tell us about an amazing story of a school teacher bringing self-tracking and visualization into her classroom. I’ll let Abigail Soto, an art teacher at De Valle High School in Austin Texas, tell you what happened in her own words:

24 hours in the life of a Del Valle student.

On February 1st, 2012 I attended the energetic and interesting gallery talk of Laurie Frick at Women & Their Work in Austin. She counted and tracked her everyday life and inspired me to have my high school student track their lives. My high school is very high poverty and my students have very little opportunity to see art and art galleries. My students love hearing stories about artists and galleries and I couldn’t wait to share my experience from the gallery talk.

On February 2nd I came to school and changed my lesson plan to include the students tracking their lives. I gave the students 24 rectangles in a line on a pre-printed sheet. I simply told them to track their previous 24 hours. One rectangle equaled one hour. The students collectively created a unified key with teenage issues. Blue signified sleep, red for school, pink for makeup, green for cell phone use etc… I did not give them any more requirements. My literal students started at a specific time and chronologically recorded their day while other students recreated their day in a more abstract manor.

The students really had to think about the length of their activities and many were shocked to find out how they spent their time. Students generated many great questions about the project and the artist. Conversations began about the amount of texting in the thousands and how much time is consumed with electronics. A great idea would be to illustrate and calculate the amount of text messages that are sent and received by each student. Some students text over 1000 times per day. Teacher and homework time can hardly compete with cell phones, television, and video games. Just by evaluating their actions they were able to visually see where they placed importance and how they should choose their time wisely.

Once each student completed their color chart they were placed in the hallway for the entire school to see. The key was placed to the side of the color charts and students walking down the hall stopped to figure out what the colors meant. The curiosity grew and non-art students were walking in my classroom asking if they could record their day. The overall experience has been very interesting. I have never been exposed to tracking and have never included tracking in an art lesson. I would like to take this lesson a step farther and do a complete lesson and art installation with my high school students. I think the possibilities are endless. Thank you Laurie Frick for expanding the possibilities in my classroom.

I think that there are a lot of lessons here that we as a community of users and makers can take away. Sometimes we get caught up in the gadgets and new technologies that we associated with real objective data collection. While those tools and web services are fun and provide us with new insights into our lives we mustn’t forget that the tools doesn’t make the tracking happen, it just makes it easier. I was asked at a conference this past week, “All those gadgets are nice, but what about the people who can’t afford them? What do you say to those people?” I think that implementing projects such as the one illustrated by Abigail Soto here is a way to bring people from all walks of life into a practice of self-tracking. Amazing insights can happen with a piece of paper, some lines, and a few colored markers. As an aside, during this same conference I met a woman whose 83 year old mother has been meticulously tracking her blood pressure and blood glucose, not with a fancy smartphone of wifi enabled device, but with good old pen and paper.

The second major lesson I took away from this project is that Quantified Self is a community in the truest sense of the world. We (and if you’re reading this that “we” includes you too) work hard to make sure that anyone and everyone feels that they can take part. Whether it is at a meetup, at a large conference, or in one-on-one discussions there is an amazing current of inclusivity, of togetherness, of intimate and abundant sharing. I’ve never once heard someone pipe up and say, “That’s not self-tracking.” As I read Abigail’s description and looked through those beautiful pieces of data visualization it made me proud that she and her students could feel included in this wonderful movement we are all a part of.

We’ll be highlighting more art projects and self-tracking experiments in future NFATW posts so please feel free to drop me a line and share your story or point out someone’s you’ve seen or read about. Our strength lies in our courage to share with each other.

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Ian Li on Moodjam

In 2006, PhD student Ian Li created Moodjam to let people track their moods in color. At the QS Europe conference last November, he met artist Laurie Frick, who creates beautiful works of art from her data. She mentioned that she was using Moodjam, and this inspired Ian to make a new version of it! In the video below, he walks through the sparkling new version, including some not-yet-released features like aggregated happy vs. sad colors and sentiment analysis. (Filmed by the Pittsburgh QS Show&Tell meetup group.)

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