Tag Archives: future

QSEU14 Breakout Session: Data Futures

Today’s post comes to us from Alberto Frigo who led the Data Future: Possibilities and Dream breakout session at the 2014 Quantified Self Europe Conference. Alberto started the discussion by asking a few questions: 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 in hosting it? Will it make any sense to future generations? Or are we going to build our own mausoleum in our backyards, or on a website with no expiration? You’re invited to read his description of the session and then join the discussion on the QS Forum

Data Future: Possibilities and Dream
by Aberto Frigo

This breakout discussion commenced by analyzing the contemporary focus on “Big Data” as a cultural artifact. As pointed out by Gary Wolf in the welcoming conference venue, we started focusing instead on “Our Data”, meaning the data generated via our self quantification. To begin with, the example of Janina Turek, a Polish housewife, was given. For over fifty years she has been tracking in hundreds of diaries very detailed facts of her life and the diaries were only found at her death inside a closet. The closet reminds us of the one utilized by the Russian experimental film maker Dziga Vertov to collect fragments of reality in the form of film clips. The introduction to the discussion was ended by speculating on the possibility to hypothetically be able to use “Our Data” as a source for a montage in order for future generations to make sense of it.

As a response to the introduction, several interesting points were made. On one hand there were different personal accounts of people who claimed that their friends only start worrying about them when they stop receiving their tweets. In this respect, one participant was in fact seriously sick. Other participants to this breakout section started talking about several art projects in which artists and designers but also amateurs have dealt with postmortem data. In one instance, a participant talked about an Austrian climber who died and how the family decided to keep his tweet account alive. Beside this discussion, issues about privacy, even after death, where brought up by the participants. At this point a proposition emerged in which the data does not necessarily need to be explicit but could require active interpretation, as in the autobiographical projects of the French photographer Sophie Calle. Also, another proposition was that “misunderstanding” of the data could be actually an interesting factor. In this respect the QS data could work as triggers which would affect the mind of the audience scavenging through the QS data of a dead man or woman, not necessarily leading to a truthful recollection of the reality he or she has tracked but generating a dream like narrative.

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.

While not part of this breakout session it may be worthwhile for those interested in the longevity of personal data to see this show&tell from Mark Krynsky, presented at the Los Angeles QS Meetup group. In his talk, Mark explain why data preservation is important and how we can preserve our personal data for future generations. Mark’s great Lifesteam Blog also has a more in-depth list of tools and services you can use to create your own digital legacy system.

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Exploring the Future of Mood Tracking (Get Your Mood On: Final Part)

Welcome to the sixth and final part of the QS book on mood tracking that Robin Barooah and I wrote. This chapter has some thoughts on what the future of mood tracking might look like. Thanks for being on this journey with us!

At this point, you should have a good understanding of the nuances and methods of tracking mood. You could stop reading here and be well-versed and ready to go. If you want a peek into some possible new ways to track mood in future, read on.

Passive Body Position and Movement

What if your mood could be measured without you having to do anything or enter any data? Would this be helpful, or is the act of reflecting on your mood the useful part? We mentioned a few existing examples earlier, like tracking what music you listen to, and your voice patterns. Here are a few other efforts happening:

A sensor called LUMOback can be stuck on your back to detect your posture throughout the day and report to you via your smartphone if you are slouching. They don’t specifically talk about mood tracking as an application for this, but posture is a known sign of mood. When we’re depressed, we don’t stand up tall.

Other experimental ways to passively capture mood include keystroke logging, which involves detecting how quickly and actively you are typing on your keyboard, and using your webcam to take random pictures or continuous video of yourself while you’re at your computer. Moritz Stefaner did a project in which he automated hourly webcam pictures of himself. He then had 13585 of the pictures analyzed for mood, with the following result.


A lot of his “sad” photos are really just him concentrating, mislabeled as sadness. but Moritz’s project shows the potential power of the cheap, universally available webcam as a passive mood tracking device.

Reverse Mood Tracking

A fascinating way of using mood tracking in a clinical setting has been pioneered by Dr. Alan Greene. He was kind enough to share his story with us here:

“Most mood trackers I know tend to notice, record, and track their moods in order to gain insights about themselves. I’ve come to also do the reverse: track my moods to gain insight about others.

It all started when I walked through a door.

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Quantified Self Utopia: What Would It Look Like?

On the QS forums, Christian Kleineidam asked:

While doing Quantified Self public relations I lately meet the challenge of explaining how our lives are going to change if everything in QS goes the way we want. A lot of what I do in quantified self is about boring details. . . .  Let’s imagine a day 20 years in the future and QS is successful. How will that day be different than [now]?

Self-measurement has helped me two ways. One is simple and clear. It has helped me be healthy. Via QS, I have found new ways to sleep better, lose weight, be in a better mood, have fewer colds (due to better immune function), reduce inflammation in my body, have better balance, have a better-functioning brain, have better blood sugar, and so on.  I am not an expert in any of these areas — I am not a professional sleep researcher, for example. I believe that this will be a large part of the long-term importance of QS: it will help non-experts make useful discoveries about health and it will help spread those discoveries. Non-experts have important advantages over professional researchers. The non-experts (the personal scientists) are only concerned with helping themselves, not with pleasing their colleagues or winning grants, promotions, or prizes; they can take as long as necessary; and they can test “crazy” ideas. In a QS-successful world, many non-experts would make such discoveries and what they learned would reach a wide audience. Lots of people would know about them and take them seriously. As a result, people would be a lot healthier.

Self-measurement has also helped me in a more subtle way. It made me believe I have more power over my health than I thought. This change began when I studied my acne. I did not begin with any agenda, any point I wanted to make, I just wanted to practice experimentation. I counted my pimples (the QS part) and did little experiments. My results showed that one of the drugs my dermatologist had prescribed (tetracycline, an antibiotic) didn’t work. My dermatologist hadn’t said this was possible. Either he had done nothing to learn if worked or he had reached the wrong answer. What stunned me was how easy it had been to find out something important a well-trained experienced expert didn’t know. My dermatologist was not an original thinker. He did what he was told to do by med school professors (antibiotics are a very common treatment for acne). It was the fact that I could improve on their advice that stunned me. I didn’t have a lab. I didn’t have a million-dollar grant. Yet I had learned something important about acne that dermatology professors with labs and grants had failed to learn (antibiotics may not work, be sure to check).

Skepticism about mainstream medicine is helpful, yes, but only a little bit. More useful is finding a better way. For example, it’s useful to point out that antidepressants don’t work well. It’s more useful to find new ways to combat depression. Two years ago, the psychiatrist Daniel Carlat came out with a book called Unhinged that criticized modern psychiatry: too much reliance on pills. No kidding. Carlat recommended more talk therapy, as if that worked so well. As far as I could tell, Carlat had no idea that you need better research to find better solutions and had no idea what better research might be. This is where QS comes in. By encouraging people to study themselves, it encourages study of a vast number of possible depression treatments that will never (or not any time soon) be studied by mainstream researchers. By providing a way to publicize what people learn by doing this, it helps spread encouraging results. In the case of depression, I found that seeing faces in the morning produced an oscillation in my mood (high during the day, low at night). This has obvious consequences for treating depression. This sort of thing will not be studied by mainstream researchers any time soon but it can easily be studied by someone tracking their mood.

In a QS-successful world, many people would have grasped the power that they have to improve their own health. (You can’t just measure yourself, you have to do experiments and choose your treatments wisely, but measuring yourself is a good start.) They would have also grasped the power they have to improve other people’s health because (a) they can test “crazy” solutions mainstream researchers will never test, (b) they can run more realistic tests than mainstream researchers, (c) they can run longer tests than mainstream researchers, and (d) no matter what the results, they can publicize them. In a QS-successful world, there will be a whole ecosystem that supports that sort of thing. Such an ecosystem is beginning to grow, no doubt about it.

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A Futurist’s Take on Self-Tracking and Mindfulness

I’ve been thinking for some time about the connection between self-tracking and mindfulness. At first glance they seem to be very different – picture the wired-up gadget wizard sitting next to the unadorned meditating guru. But step to the side and look from a different angle, and you may see meditation and self-tracking as two parallel tools that lead down the same path toward mindfulness.

While these thoughts were swirling through my mind, I got an email from Alex Pang. Alex is a futurist currently housed at Microsoft Research Cambridge, where he is studying the relationship between self-tracking/self-experimentation and mindfulness in a project he calls “contemplative computing”. Wow. Alex just finished writing an article on this topic, using his own experience with weight loss as an example, and delving both into the past and into the future to come to some interesting conclusions. His paper is available here, and I’d love to know if anyone else out there has been thinking about this connection as well.

Maybe the modern-day version of the gong and the meditation cushion are the self-tracking app and the device that runs it?

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What’s your idea to BodyShock the Future?

I’m working on this project with Institute for the Future – calling on voices everywhere for ideas to improve the future of global health. It would be great to get some Quantified Self ideas entered!

IFTF BodyShock the Future entry idea:
Shock Your Body
from Institute for
the Future
on Vimeo.


“What can YOU
envision to improve and reinvent health and well-being for the future?”
Anyone can enter, anyone can vote, anyone can change the future of
global health.

With obesity,
diabetes, and chronic disease rampaging populations around the world,
Institute for the Future (IFTF) is turning up the volume on global
well-being. Launching today, IFTF’s BodyShock is the first annual
competition with an urgent challenge to recruit crowdsourced designs and
solutions for better health–to remake the future by rebooting the

See more info after the jump…

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The Future of Self-Knowledge


Jessica Charlesworth’s blog has a fantastic title: The Future of Self-Knowledge. Jessica is a designer and researcher based in London, England. She has developed several interesting tools for taking a somewhat quantified, analog peek into your future.

Crowdsourcing Your Future is a postcard that you send to your friends to have them predict your preferable and probable future timelines, so you can take action to follow or avoid certain futures that your friends see for you.

Personal Microtrends is a daily diary that asks provocative questions and suggests behavior changes for the next day to continue or alter trends depending on your goals. Jessica says,

What if you could create a self-reflective diary that made use of
our everyday thoughts to provoke us in such a way that you were able to
change your future actions?

The Microtrend Diary
is a mirror of your daily actions and emotions that reveals provocative
ways to alter your future actions.

This personalised diary is printed to order based on a set
of preliminary personality questions. As the owner makes a daily record
of their actions, a unique set of provocative aide memoirs are revealed
under a perforated flap that suggest changing your behaviour in certain
ways for the following day.

Right now Jessica’s diary is just at the concept stage, but the idea of looking at microtrends in your daily life, based on whatever data you collect, could allow self-quantifiers to spot patterns and make any needed changes on a more granular basis. It’s like rapid prototyping for self-experimentation.

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