Tag Archives: media

Chloe Fan on Visualizing Movies She Has Seen Since 2001

Chloe Fan has kept all of her movie ticket stubs since 2001. Inspired by a minimalism streak, she digitized them all and created some cool visualizations. She learned her movie-watching patterns: by day of week, time of day, IMDB movie rating, price, location, who she was with, etc. In the video below, Chloe walks through her most embarrassing movies, how her tastes have changed over time, and other fun things. You can check out her visualizations here. (Filmed by the Pittsburgh QS Show&Tell meetup group.)

Chloe Fan – Movies I’ve Seen in Theaters Since 2001 from Quantified Self Pittsburgh on Vimeo.

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Ethan Zuckerman: Tracking My Media Diet

Ethan Zuckerman, the co-founder of Global Voices and the writer of a wonderful blog called my heart’s in accra is doing an experiment, and is asking for advice and collaborators. The experiment is to track his “media diet.” The project is related to Ethan’s argument that we don’t have very reliable intuitions about the kind of media we consume.

I’ve made the case – in my recent TED talk
and elsewhere – that many of us overestimate the amount of diverse,
international information we encounter through the internet and other
communications networks. We run the danger of being “imaginary
cosmopolitans”, convinced we’re encountering information from all
corners of the world, while we might be trapped in homogenous echo

One of the interesting, valuable things about this experiment is that Ethan has already had more experience than most people tracking media consumption. Now he is turning his attention to the problem of self tracking media. We will all learn from this.

Media diaries aren’t new – take an intro communications class at many
universities, and you’re likely to be asked to keep one. They tend to
be pretty superficial
- it requires some serious obsessiveness to log the individual stories
you encounter, rather than writing down “NPR – 7am – 7:20am. And the
process of keeping a diary tends to shape your behavior – for the month
Rachel and I were a Nielsen family (years back), we watched vastly more
public television than we do in an average month.

It’s easier than ever to keep a diary with tools like Your Flowing Data,
a Twitter-based service that allows you to send direct messages via the
web or SMS. I just logged “d yfd listened WNNZ 0750 – 0830″, a syntax
that I hope will let me start collecting information on what media I
encounter offline, and who I interact with in the real world.

But what I really want is data on the dozen or more stories I heard
on NPR during that morning drive – coding each in terms of subject and
geography would mean either logging while driving or writing a tool that
turns the name of a broadcast media source and an interval into a
stream of metadata.

If you have tried this yourself, please pipe up with suggestions. For more details about what Ethan is doing read the full post:

Media Tracking and the Quantified Self

Below is a wonderful TED talk by Ethan about how easy it is to make mistakes about the nature of the media we consume. His ideas about “imaginary cosmopolitanism” tell us something important about how errors in how we understand our own behavior may also blind us to important things going on the world. 


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Quantifying Now

Sprint’s commercial tries to sell its 3G network by quantifying “now.” Does this mean it’s the beginning of a trend, or the end of one?

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The New Examined Life – Self-Tracking Story in WSJ

Today’s story on self-tracking and self measurement in the Wall Street Journal featured Alexandra Carmichael, the co-founder of Cure Together, a platform for open source health research. (Alexandra is a regular at the QS Show&Tell.)

CureTogether is a community site where members can share information about their health. Alexandra has an excellent post on the Cure Together blog about how her site fits into disease research. Although Alexandra is a leader in building tools for self-tracking, the WSJ story focusing on her own self-tracking project. Here is the key paragraph:

Some of the new data collectors hope to make better
decisions about their activities and improve their quality of life. For
the last four months, Alexandra Carmichael, the founder of a health
research Web site called CureTogether in San Francisco, has been
tracking more than 40 different categories of information about her
health and personal habits. In addition to her daily caloric intake,
her morning weight and the type and duration of exercise she performs,
she also tracks her daily mood, noting descriptions such as “happiness”
and “feeling fat.”

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A quick overview of the emerging culture of self-tracking ran in the Washington Post the other day. Called “Bytes of Life: For Every Move, Mood and Bodily Function, There’s a Web Site to Help You Keep Track.”  The subtitle is a gross exaggeration, although in time it will be true.

Right now there are a handful of sites that assist individuals in their efforts to monitor their lives. Functions include exercise, moving outside, eating, sleeping, sex, crapping, working, writing, and driving. There seems to be a new site a month, with no end in sight. Every conceivable activity that can be measured and tracked will be measured and tracked.

These sites allow you to easily input your data, then graph it visually, then share it if you want, then discuss it with kindred spirits. One of the sites featured, for example, is My Monthly Cycle, which tracks menstrual cycles, primarily for pregnancy hopefuls. Users add all kinds of data (those little hearts in the chart below are exactly what you think they are). The website charts are dispensed –and of course shared!


The article pokes a little fun at the nerdiness of personal data obsessiveness.

For what possible reason would otherwise sane people dedicate brainpower and man-hours to charting experiences at which they themselves were already present?

And not meaningful things, either. Not things like, “Proposed to future wife at 7:02 p.m., Aug. 15, 2006,” but things like, “Ate three green beans at 7:02 p.m., Aug. 15, 2006.” And not just occasionally, but lots of times every single day, gobs and gobs of binary data representing everything from the last time you slept past 10 a.m. to the song you were listening to at noon last Oct. 12.

Self-tracking is partly about the recording, but also as much about the analysis that goes on after the recording. The apparent meaninglessness of data recorded over time is actually what makes it profound.

Indeed, in science — as well as our lives — it is often the seemingly insignificant bits of data that end up, after inspection, being the most important bits.  That’s why its not crazy to collect massive amounts of data from our own lives. Data storage is cheap. Reliable base lines of your life’s habits can be valuable. Why not track everything?

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