Tag Archives: breakout

QSEU14 Breakout: Tracking Grief and Mood

Today’s post comes to us from Dana Greenfield. We asked Dana and the great QS scholar and thinker, Whitney Erin Boesel, to lead a breakout session on tracking grief and mood at the 2014 Quantified Self Europe Conference. Mood tracking is common in the QS community, and both Dana and Whitney have extensive experiences attempting to use pre-made tools to track mood. However, both were struck by the design of many current mood trackers to emphasize happiness and positivity above all else. This breakout session invited participants to come together and discuss what happens when grief and mood tracking collide. What should be tracked and what does it mean? You’re invited to read Dana’s description of the session below and then join the discussion on the QS Forum.

Tracking Grief & Mood
by Dana Greenfield

This breakout session followed my opening plenary talk, where I presented early reflections on a work-in-progress: a memory/grief/lifelogging project cataloging the experience of the recent loss of my mother. Using a google form, to log what I called “mom sightings”, I wanted to explore mood tracking where the aim is not to be rid of sadness, and life-logging, and where the aim is to log something other than my self, my fuzzy relation to and recollection of my mom. What started as a project to make something out of this collection (a data visualization as memorial of sorts), became something almost therapeutic and reflective through the process of tracking and re-remembering itself.
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I convened this breakout session with Whitney Erin Boesel to open a discussion on mood tracking for when you’re not aiming to optimize your emotional life, when different shades of sorrow are acknowledged as part of being human. I thought we might hear about and share stories of using different mood tracking tools, their capabilities and limitations. Instead, the conversation opened up with many people sharing their experiences with devastating loss and the grieving process, outside of tracking. The diverse crowd included a few mood trackers, but many of us had experienced loss, some very recently. We shared the passings of mentors, fathers, mothers, best friends, pets, and partners to both disease and divorce.

It turns out grief is a great entry point for exploring the meaning of personal data collection and analysis, from collecting as artistic expression to the role of social media in death.

We began wondering whether quantified self tactics were even appropriate for grief. For some, mourning found expression in art, like painting, which enables the flow of emotion and experience through color and open-ended form, resolving in release and relief. Creating artwork out of the remnants of a loved-ones life, on the other hand, enabled one woman to relive memories stored in an attic. While the process of handling and cataloging such artifacts was exhausting, it enabled her to construct something new. In her case, she logged all the items of her childhood home into a digital archive, finding joy and humor in her mothers eye-glasses collection, for example. Unlike her ongoing mood tracking, artistic work “helped me to deal with that [loss], and gradually let go of her.”

Others also questioned the desire to quantify something like grief and the complexity of human emotion. For one long-time tracker, the sudden loss of his father was represented by an absence in his data, an interruption to the flow of life. While grief was seen at the ‘edge’ of what we might want to or be able to quantify, some pointed out that much of “non-verbal, non-conceptualized’ human experience resisted quantification or even true representation. As one person put it: “When clearing the house of someone who died we suddenly realized there is no such rose-bud moment. The numbers aren’t really less than the other things, like… the other remnants of people’s past…it’s just another way of reconstructing something that is not there.” In other words, we collect, we track, we quantify, but is there some kernel of truth at the center? or is truth–about someone’s life past or present–always under re-construction in the act of counting and re-counting?

This question of the tracked and truth came up again when we discussed the difficulties of death on social media. How do we negotiate memorializing as well as forgetting in digital spaces? One response: “it’s been an issue in social media from the beginning. It’s nearly impossible to express other feelings than professional coolness–you’re allowed to rant or to troll people but not to express fear or things like that.” On the other hand. Whitney shared the story of friend who committed suicide, and the partner asked for the page to not be turned into a memorial site, because then it would be frozen. Another participant was disturbed over tweets to a dead man on his birthday; his wife, it turned out, had an ongoing relationship with her deceased husband on twitter. For a woman who lost a close friend, social media was a useful arena to be open about her grief, make it more visible.

I started to think of the ways we can empathy hack social media when someone asked “As we have more data and more stuff that’s reflecting us, can [death] continue to be hidden?” But now I wonder, does visibility of the data of death make us more open and vulnerable to each other, or might it desensitize? What are the implications of Facebook’s death toll? When my mother passed, I was told that my relationship to her doesn’t end because she is gone–the social media afterlife gives this sentiment a whole new meaning.

Memory and memorialization get complicated with our increasing data exhaust. For many, the tools of QS enhance memory, as the life is archived, but with death in the connected age and in social media, do we want to remember everything? And, do we have a right to forget or be forgotten? My work was specifically private, perhaps in contradistinction to a loss that was very public in our small community, and I wondered what remembering as an imperfect low fidelity practice did for me in itself. Some in the group asked me if tracking my grief, my memories enhanced the pain, if it let me linger in it too much. I wasn’t sure. For many in the room, there was a place for remembering but then putting away, enabling life to get on with itself. For some the CD-ROM was the container; for me, the spreadsheet.

One hypothesis: “Tracking could be not just a desire not to forget but the need to forget.”
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There is a tradition in anthropology of using other value systems as “good to think with,” as ways to imagine our own worlds and practices as otherwise. So in a world in which automatic tracking enables, even encourages the exhaustively remembered and logged-life, we might look to other places and peoples to remind ourselves that forgetting has its place too. Anthropologist Josh Berson offered us one such space:

“You can look at certain parts of indigenous Australia, where intense grief, during mourning is coupled with an institutionalized practice of avoidance of references to the dead person….you find [a trigger warning] at the beginning of practically any literature where indigenous australians might be exposed to where they might see images of people whom they know who are now dead. So it is possible to imagine a healthy form of grieving which is at the same time coupled to a deep respect for forgetting, institutionalization of a very shallow sense of the historical past.”

By shallow, Berson doesn’t mean trivial; rather, he suggests a qualitatively different relationship to time and memory. We left our discussion without resolving these tensions between logging, memorializing, and letting go. I was so grateful and glad for that. Grief, like it so often does, turns what seems like emptiness into an opening.

If you’re interested in grief and mood tracking we invite you to head to our forum to join the discussion on the QS Forum.

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QSEU14 Breakout Session: Spaced Repetition

Today’s post comes to us from Steven Jonas who led the Spaced Repetition breakout session at the 2014 Quantified Self Europe Conference.  Spaced repetition is a common topic in the Quantified Self community and we’ve seen great examples from Jeopardy champion Roger Craig and Steven. In this breakout session, conference attendees discussed reasons for using spaced repetition, past experiences, and potential pitfalls. You’re invited to read the description of the session and then join the discussion on the QS Forum

How Spaced Repetition Works (A graph)

Spaced Repetition
By Steven Jonas
The Spaced Repetition breakout was a knowledge sharing session around the use of spaced repetition tools, such as SuperMemo, Anki, and Memrise. There were two major themes during the discussion: what can spaced repetition be used for, and what is the value of it?

Many people use Spaced Repetition to memorize vocabulary while learning a foreign language. But it has other uses also. Novel uses of spaced repetition include: remembering the faces of authors of books and articles and memorizing entries from one’s own datebook to construct a mental timeline . We explored other possible uses of this powerful tool, such as remembering facts about people, or using it to keep in mind projects that one would like to do.

Why memorize information when most facts are just a web search away? We discussed a few reasons to commit facts to memory. One is that most breakthroughs come from connecting ideas together. So, by retaining what one has already learned, it makes it easier to make connections with new ideas as they are encountered.

Also, spaced repetition can be used to change your overall relationship with a subject of knowledge. One person told of how he tried to multiple times to learn Spanish with poor results. His conclusion was that he just wasn’t good at learning languages. After using spaced repetition to build his vocabulary, he changed his self-assessment. It wasn’t that he was bad at languages, he just needed a better process. Or consider the experience of memorizing poetry. Holding a poem in memory changes one’s relationship to it. Adding a poem to one’s repertoire creates a sense of ownership over the poem.

We acknowledged in our discussion that spaced repetition practice is fragile, because for it to be most effective it must be done every day. A neglected spaced repetition system leads to an overwhelming number of cards to be reviewed, which can lead to abandoning the practice  altogether. This is a problem that, so far, does not seem to have a good solution.

If you’re interested in keeping this conversation going about what should happen to our data after we’re gone you’re invited to join the discussion on the QS Forum.

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2014 QS Europe Conference: Breakout Sessions

We organize our QS conferences backwards: First the registrants, then the program. We like to keep things open to the last minute so we can get a sense of what everybody is working on and thinking about before making the final lineup. But eventually the printer’s deadline looms, and we have to say: this is it.

So, this is it! Over the next few days we’ll publish our list of speakers and breakouts for QS Europe 2014. We hope you’ll be able to join us; and if getting to Amsterdam is impossible this year you might still want to take a look at some of the links and projects QS participants are showing at the meeting.

The following 31 sessions touch on topics ranging from new methods in image analysis to the privacy and ethics of using QS tools. We can’t wait to sit in on these discussions, learn new skills and take up new challenges. All of these sessions were proposed by conference registrants, who bring many years of experience and knowledge to their sessions.

Photo Lifelogging as Context for QS Practice
Cathal Gurrin, Niclas Johansson, Rami Albatal
Learn how to use computer vision to extract metadata from lifelogging photos, enrich a photo timeline with other personal data, and draw insights from massive longitudinal photo collections.

Self-tracking of Neurological Diseases
Sara Riggare
This session will explore the “Why?”, “What?” and “How?” of self-tracking of neurological diseases, such as Parkinson’s, MS, Epilepsy, and more.

Measure With Muppets
Jennifer Kotler Clarke, June Lee
Come meet with researchers from the renowned Sesame Workshop, makers of Sesame Street and discuss tracking practices that support children’s educational development. What can we create that could be useful for children under age 5?

Our Lives, Virtually
Eric Blue
Virtual reality gives us new ways to represent ourselves with data. We’ll discuss ideas for merging virtual reality with Quantified Self, visualizing biometric data and exploring personal data models. There will be an Oculus Rift so people can experience VR first hand.

Passive Sensing on Smart Phones
Jan Peter Larsen, Freek van Polen
In your pocket is a device that contains numerous sensors, sources of behavioral information and hooks to your digital footprint. We will discuss how passive sensing will continue to develop, and what opportunities, pitfalls, and ethical challenges lie ahead.

Workshop: Telling Stories With Data
Kitty Ireland, Adrienne Andrew Slaughter
In this workshop session we’ll use the tools and traditions of storytelling to help us ask good questions of our data, identify plots and subplots, and discard noisy or irrelevant information.

Personal Data: Attacks & Defense #1
Magnus Kalkuhl, Kley Reynolds
How anonymous can you be when using QS tools? In the first part of this workshop-style breakout we will explore the biggest threats and risks – for users as well as for providers of QS tools and services. (First of a 2-part workshop)

Personal Data: Attacks & Defense #2
Kley Reynolds, Magnus Kalkuhl
How can we protect our data from being misused? In the second part of this workshop-style breakout we’ll discuss defensive measures including how to react if our data has been exposed or stolen, and how to reduce our risk of harm. (Second of a 2-part workshop)

Data Futures: Possibilities and Dreams
Alberto Frigo
As we passionately gather our data, it is striking to reflect about its destiny. Is it going to end up in an attic? Will there be an institution interested to host it? Will it make any sense to future generations? Or our we going to build our own mausoleum in our backyards, or on a website with no expiration?

Families & Self-Tracking
Rajiv Mehta, Dawn Nafus
Recent survey data shows that a person caring for a friend or family member is more likely to be self-tracking. Let’s talk about how QS plays a role in how we care for our families and friends.

Strategies for Managing Our Data
Jakob Eg Larsen
Managing the increasing quantities of our personal information (emails, documents, streams of self-tracking data, etc) can be difficult. We’ll share ideas, tools, and strategies for getting more personal benefit from our voluminous data.

Is Open Privacy the Next Open Source?
Laurie Frick
Fear of surveillance is high, but what if societies with the most openness develop faster culturally, creatively, and technically? Let’s discuss an alternative view of privacy and the future of personal data and identity.

Spaced Repetition
Steven Jonas
Learn about familiar and novel applications of spaced repetition as a self-tracking and memory practice.

How to Organize a QS Hackathon
Ciaran Lyons, Ola Cornelius
A hackathon is a good way to quickly explore new ideas with new data sets. We’ll talk about our experiences organizing hackathons and perhaps find ways to collaborate on new projects.

Recording Data By Hand
Florian Schumacher
Many of us record our data manually. What are the current practices, and how could they be improved?

Best practices in QS APIs
Anne Wright
Good API design and implementation can be difficult, as is the task of finding and making use of existing APIs. This session will review what we in the QS community have learned so far and talk about current issues.

QS and Philosophy
Joerg Blumtritt
How does the practice of tracking, sharing, and using data for personal meaning challenge our ideas about human connection, ideas traditionally framed as oppositions between between “individuals” and “society.”

QS and Nutrition
Mark Moschel
How are we currently tracking our nutrition, and how could we do it better? How are novel data streams such as genetics and microbiome analysis being integrated into diet and nutrition tracking?

Have We All Become Data Fetishists?
Dorien Zandbergen, Tamar Sharon
QS is often equated with “data fetishism”: everything can be reduced to data and data is all that matters. In this session we’ll explore all the non-reductive ways in which data speaks and acts. Does it generate new kinds of social formations, new ways of confessing unspeakable truths, a closer way of relating to ourselves, to others and to the world?

Tracking Metabolism
Martin von Haller Groenbaek
Do you track blood glucose or other metabolic measures? This is an open discussion of techniques, problems, and ideas.

Goal Setting
Damien Catani
Self-quantification can serve as a building block for achieving personal goals. But can all goals in our lives be quantified? How do we set the right targets and analyze our progress?

Can Data Make Us More Human?
Kaiton Williams
How might we use our practices as a starting point from which to develop empathy for others? Can we transform our wealth of personal and experiential data into a platform for improving our connection to those around us and to the broader world? Please join us to discuss and co-create concrete and speculative designs for combining, remixing, and imagining our data practices in collective ways.

Participatory Science and Public Health
Andre Boorsma
About 70 nutrition researchers have created a voluntary cohort of self-trackers sharing data for science. We’ll share our lessons and explore whether this approach of voluntary and participatory public health research could grow and inspire similar projects.

Tracking Your Gut
Jessica Richman
The microbiome is an entirely new way of looking at our bodies and our health. Please join us as we talk about personal experiments with the microbiome, Quantified Self, and the future of the microbiome.

Cartographies of Rest
Josh Berson
We all need strategies for getting rest, or dispensing with rest, in the face of an unending stream of cues to be active. We’ll share our different approaches, and also discuss an ambitious self-tracking experiment in the cartography of rest.

What is Productivity and Why Are We Tracking It?
Brian Crain
While productivity tracking is a popular pursuit, there are a fascinating variety of approaches. Many seem conflicting at their core, urging us to step back and ask: What is productivity in the first place? What metrics represent it best? And how can we use these metrics to track what we actually care about?

The Future of Behavior Change
Lukasz Piwek
Is there a viable approach in using technology for behavior change to help people exercise more, save energy, recycle, travel smart, be more productive and happier? Believers and skeptics about behavior change are welcome to this open discussion.

Mapping Data Access
Robin Barooah, Dawn Nafus
We’ll use some diagrams of data flows in popular QS systems to talk about how and where we access our own data, and how toolmakers can improve access. Come bring your own experiences as users and makers to improve these maps and discuss their implications.

Aggregator platforms: Understanding data?
Kouris Kalligas, Erik Holland Haukebø
Many of us are involved in aggregating personal data or using services based on data aggregation. This sessions is an open discussion of lessons and challenges of combining heterogeneous data streams.

An Imaging Mind
Floris van Eck
The amount of data is growing and with it we’re trying to find context. Every attempt to gain more context seems to generate even more imagery and thus data. How can we combine surveillance and sousveillance to improve our personal and collective wellbeing and safety?

Sensing Smell
Jenny Tillotson
Scent has the power to profoundly affect our psychology and physiology. Learn about the state of the art in smell tracking, interpretation, and use.

Blogging About Quantified Self
Peter Joosten
Are you a blogger or do you want to blog about quantified self? In this breakout discussion session we will discuss (personal) blogs about quantified self. Do you reveal your personal data on your blog? Do you cooperate with other bloggers or with other media? Let’s learn from each other.

Biofeedback for m-Health
Kiel Gilleade
Biofeedback training has been used with success to treat a range of health problems, including migraines, anxiety, attention deficit disorder and motion sickness. In this breakout session let’s discuss the opportunities and challenges involved in translating these techniques into m-health applications.

Emotive Wearables
Rain Ashford
Rain has built a wearable EEG sensing pendant and wants to hear your thoughts. Come test the device and join a discussion about what it means to “wear data” in social situations.

Grief and Mood Tracking
Whitney Erin Boesel, Dana Greenfield
What happens when you’re tracking, but not looking to change you how feel? Join us to discuss the ways we can use different techniques to work through the process of loss and grief.

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Conference Preview: Tracking our Bacterial Buddies

bacteria-600x381We are not alone. No, there haven’t been any extraterrestrial sightings lately, but there have been many advances in understanding the organisms that make up the ecosystem of ourselves. Did you know that you are supporting almost 10 times more bacterial cells than human cells? These bacterial collaborators have a profound affect on health and wellbeing. Jessica Richman, co-founder and CEO of uBiome, will be leading a breakout session at our upcoming QS Europe Conference on understanding the microbiome.

Access to microbiome data outside the official research and clinical context is bound to ruffle feathers, just as access to genomic data has created controversy for 23andMe and other companies. While the regulators argue, we’re keenly interested in finding out how microbiome info can be useful and interesting in our own tracking projects, and there is nobody better to work on this with than Jessica. Please join this session if you share our curiosity.

 The QS Europe Conference is just a few weeks away; come if you can!

 

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