Tag Archives: Research

The State of Self Tracking (QS London Survey)

The excellent organizers of the London Quantified Self Show&Tell recently fielded a detailed survey about the self-tracking practices in their group. In the video below Ulrich Atz presents their findings.

Some of the interesting results from the survey:

  • 105 respondents (22 identified as female, 76 as male).
  • Over 500 unique tools were being used.
  • 47% of the respondents are currently measuring weight (17% have in the past).
  • Pen & paper is being used by 28% of respondents.
  • 90% of respondents who answered a question about data sharing would share their data (or share it for medical research).

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The presentation is available online here (PDF) and an aggregate view of the survey results is also available for you to explore here. We’re excited to see and learn more from this interesting data set in the future.

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The Quantified Self Institute

We are excited to be bringing a scientific and research track to the upcoming 2014 QS Europe Conference. We’ve been pushed and prodded by many of our friends in the QS community to make this happen. Today we’re highlighting one of those friends and collaborators, the Quantified Self Institute. Read below to learn more about their work and then register for the conference to join the conversation in person!

QSI logo

In 2012 the Hanze University of Applied Science founded the Quantified Self Institute (QSI) in collaboration with Quantified Self Labs. The mission of QSI is to encourage a healthy lifestyle through technology, science, and fun. We aim to bring the knowledge and experience of the QS community and the science community together in order to learn from each other.

We are a multidisciplinary group of researchers and teachers who work together with a network of universities, health care institutions and industry partners on personalized science, health and self-tracking.

We focus on the Big Five for Healthy Life (physical activity, food, sleep, stress & relaxation and social interaction) and conduct research on the availability, validity, and efficacy of self-tracking technologies.

Our ultimate goal is to find out by what means and to what extend self-tracking is useful for personal health. We look forward to exploring and along with worldwide QS Community. We hope you join us at the upcoming 2014 QS Europe Conference!

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Submit Your Quantified Self Research

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We’ve been holding Quantified Self Conferences since 2011. Every year since then we’ve been approached by scientists and researchers in the academic community to help them find a way to incorporate their work and their ideas into our structure. After a few years of holding back, listening, and watching the research community become engaged with other scientists and the real-world QS practitioners we’re ready to take that next step.

We are excited to announce today that we are inviting scientists and non-scientists to join a research oriented poster session at our upcoming Quantified Self European Conference on May 10th and 11th.

These sessions are a way for us to support interesting work that doesn’t fit into our established show&tell format, including research results from academic and scientific studies relevant to QS practitioners. Possible topics include (but are not limited to):

  • Validity, reliability, usability, and effectiveness of self-tracking devices
  • Experiment design
  • Statistical and/or visualization methods
  • Social and psychological investigation into self-tracking practices
  • Social science research on the QS community

Our hope is that these posters and the conversations around them will help us (scientists and non-scientists) learn from each other, stimulate new ideas/projects, and to uncover new applications for the research findings.

How to submit a poster

The process is very simple. Simply send us a draft of your poster submission via email. We will be accepting submissions until April 14, 2014.  For format and other info, please read the instructions below. The posters will be reviewed for content and relevance; if you would like to be involved with the review process, or have any questions, please contact us.

Details

Posters should contain the following elements:

  • Title
  • Authors and affiliations
  • Sections:
    • Background
    • Method
    • Results
    • Discussion/Conclusions
    • QS Relevance
  • Contact information. We recommend including a picture of yourself so others at the conference can find you, and, if applicable, your twitter account.

Format:

  • You must use the A0 size (841 × 1189mm or 33.11 × 46.81 inches)
  • A PowerPoint template is provided for you to use.

Remember to Keep It Short and Simple (KISS). We want to stimulate creativity and strongly recommend the use of tables, figures, and visualizations. For examples and design tips we recommend the following articles:

Dates & Deadlines

Deadline for submission is April 14, 2014. We will conducting reviews and informing submitters of acceptance on a continual basis. All submitters will be notified by April 21, 2014. We look forward to seeing your inspiriting projects and findings.

Submit your poster now!





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The State of Self-Tracking

(Co-written with Gary Wolf)

In January we started asking ourselves, “How many people self-track?”  It was an interesting question that stemmed from our discussion with Susannah Fox about the recent Pew report on Tracking for Health. Here’s a quick recap of the discussion so far.

The astute Brian Dolan of MobiHealthNews suggested that the Pew data on self-tracking for health seems to show constant – not growing – participation. According to Pew, in 2012 only 11% of adults track their health using mobile apps, up from 9% in 2011.

All this in the context of a massive increase in smartphone use. Pew data shows smartphone ownership rising 20% just in the last year, and this shows no signs of slowing down. Those smartphones are not just super-connected tweeting machines. They pack a variety of powerful sensors and technologies that can be used for self-tracking apps. We notice a lot of people using these, but our sample is skewed toward techies and scientists.

What is really going on in the bigger world? How many people are actually tracking?

A few weeks ago ABI, a market research firm, released a report on Wearable Computing Devices. According to the report there will be an estimated 485 million wearable computing devices shipped by 2018. Josh Flood, the analyst behind this report indicated that they estimated that 61% of all devices in wearable market are fitness or activity trackers. “Sports and fitness will continue to be the largest in shipments,” he mentioned “but we’ll start to see growth in other areas such as watches, cameras, and glasses.”

One just needs to venture into their local electronics retailer to see that self-tracking devices are becoming more widespread. So why are our observations out of synch with the Pew numbers?

The answer may lie in the framing of the Pew questions as “self-tracking for health?” For instance:

On your cell phone, do you happen to have any software applications or “apps” that help you track or manage your health, or not?

Thinking about the health indicator you pay the most attention to, either for yourself or someone else (an adult you provide unpaid care for), how do you keep track of changes? Do you use paper, like a notebook or journal, a computer program, like a spreadsheet, a website or other online tool, an app or other tool on your phone or mobile device, a medical device, like a glucose meter, or do you keep track just in your head?

We think it is likely that many practices we include in our definition of Quantified Self are not being captured by the Pew Research. A person who tracks a daily run with a Garmin GPS watch might show up in the wearables data that ABI looks at, and might look to us as a self-tracker for health, but might be invisible to Pew. There may be even self-tracking practices that fall outside health or wearables. We’ve seen a large number of people who track time and productivity using computer applications such as RescueTime, apps that support well-being such as meditation trackers, mood trackers, and diet trackers; and apps that support general self-reflection and journaling, such as a life-logging app. Many self-tracking practices do not fit neatly into “health.” (Though they may influence health!)

In a way, there is a parallel here to what we found when we compared Fitbit with Fuelband data. Both of them produced different numbers for “steps.” When we got into the details, we ended up thinking that this was not a matter of one being closer to the “ground truth,” but of intentionally different interpretations of messy accelerometer data. Fitbit gives more step credit for general movement, because it is a lifestyle/activity tracker; Nike might prefer to credit intentional exercise, since the Nike brand sits closer to sports. Context matters.

This confusion about what is health tracking, what fits in the frame, is closely analogous to many other confusions in the conversation about health generally. It is common now in the healthcare world to talk about how the larger determinants of public health are outside the control of the healthcare industry; for instance, diet, exercise, stress, and exposure to environmental toxins. Sometimes people who make these observations follow them with a call for the healthcare industry to begin addressing these larger concerns; for instance, to “medicalize” tracking apps by making them prescribable and reimbursable by health insurers.

But maybe this isn’t the only approach. If the “healthcare” frame isn’t adequate to capture the most important determinants of health, we could try switching frames. What our journey through the self-tracking data suggests is that the opposite approach might be useful to consider: start with the bigger world of self-care practices, and enhance these. Why? Because that’s where we trackers already are. That is, how are we deriving meaning from self-tracking? That’s the mental framework that we typically use, and that we like to use. That’s where the growth – in terms both of us, and of cultural understanding, engagement, and knowledge-making – might really be happening.

We don’t know this for sure. We take the Pew data as evidence that this approach is worth trying.

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One in four adult internet users track their own health data online

This is one of the findings in the amazing Susannah Fox‘s recent report for Pew Internet, part of the Pew Research Center.

The report is called The Social Life of Health Information, and has several interesting findings. Here is an excerpt:

Carol Torgan, a health science strategist, points out that anyone who makes note of their blood pressure, weight, or menstrual cycle could be categorized as a “self-tracker.”10 Add an online component, and you have the ingredients for a social health application or an electronic health record. Our survey finds that 15% of internet users have tracked their weight, diet, or exercise routine online. In addition, 17% of internet users have tracked any other health indicators or symptoms online.  Fully 27% of adult internet users say yes to either question.

Wireless users are more likely than other internet users to track health data online. Eighteen percent of wireless users have tracked their weight, diet, or exercise routine online, compared with 9% of internet users who do not have a wireless-enabled laptop or other device. Nineteen percent of wireless users have tracked any other health indicators or symptoms online, compared with 11% of non-wireless internet users.

Separately, looking just at the 85% of adults who own a cell phone, 9% say they have software applications or “apps” on their phones that help them track or manage their health.

 

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Announcing: the Quantified Self Forum

By popular request, we have just launched a global QS forum at: http://forum.quantifiedself.com/

Gary, Dan Dascalescu, and I took some exciting topics from the conference and turned them into forum discussions, with expert moderators to help explore ideas and answer questions. You’ll find discussions on:

- Apps & Tools, moderated by Dan Dascalescu

Data Ownership & Privacy, moderated by Ryan Calo

Design, moderated by Steve Dean

Habit Change, moderated by Ernesto Ramirez and Gary Isaac Wolf

Fitness, moderated by Alexandra Carmichael and Dan Dascalescu

Learning & Cognition, moderated by Nick Winter

Medical tests, moderated by Dave Asprey

Mood, moderated by Margie Morris

Nutrition, moderated by Alexandra Carmichael and Dan Dascalescu

Sleep, moderated by Alexandra Carmichael and Gary Isaac Wolf

Self Experimentation, moderated by Seth Roberts

QS Startups, moderated by Eri Gentry and Ernesto Ramirez

QS Research & Media, moderated by Rajiv Mehta

QS Open Forum for any Quantified Self topic not covered above, moderated by Alexandra Carmichael and Gary Isaac Wolf

Please join in the conversations, ask questions, share what you’ve learned, and come play with us!

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Recruiting self-trackers for a Masters thesis study

As far as I know, Adam Butterfield is the first person doing his Master’s thesis on the subject of the Quantified Self. He wrote in with this request:

Calling all self-trackers! My name is Adam Butterfield, and I am a graduate student in the department of Anthropology at San Jose State University conducting research on Quantified Self and self-tracking practices. I am looking to recruit people that are willing to be interviewed about Quantified Self and self-tracking/self-experimenting from their perspective.

The interviews will be about one hour in length and I expect that we will need two sessions to cover all the questions. There is no compensation offered for participating other than knowing that you have helped contribute to this research project and added to the body of knowledge around health management and self-tracking. Interviews can take place in person, over the telephone, or via Skype.

If you are interested in participating in the project, please contact me for more information at the following email address:  adam.butterfield@ymail.com.

Thank you!

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Do You Want to Experimonth?

This is a guest post by Beck Tench:

This Friday begins a month-long participatory blogging project at the Museum of Life and Science, where I work, called Experimonth – and QS’rs are invited to participate.

Experimonth, which started as a personal project for me in 2008, has morphed into an effort to bring scientists and citizens together through data collection and blogging. For our first experimonth as a museum, we’ll be focusing on Mood and working with Frances Ulman, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist doing her post-doctoral research at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Here’s how it’ll work:

Continue reading

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Remote Interviews: Reflecting on Self-Tracking Data

Last week, I wrote a post recruiting self-quantifiers who live in Pittsburgh for face-to-face interviews at Carnegie Mellon University, but not many responded. Thankfully, a QS reader informed me of Skype’s ‘Share Screen’ feature.

Now, I am writing again to recruit participants, but this time the interviews will be remote using Skype’s ‘Share Screen’ feature. The study consists of two interviews (a few weeks apart). In the first interview, I will observe how you explore your data using your personal informatics tool and ask you questions about what you learn from your data.

In the second interview, I will show you different designs of graphs and visualizations and ask you about your thoughts on the designs. Participants will receive a $10 Amazon gift certificate per hour of interview.

If you are interested in participating, please complete the pre-questionnaire (http://ianli.com/pi/2010pre/qs), which has a few questions about the types of information that you keep track. We will select interview participants from those who complete the pre-questionnaire.

If you have questions, please email me at ianli@cmu.edu.

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Reflecting on Self-Tracking Data: Study at Carnegie Mellon University

Hello, everyone! Last summer, we conducted a study about people’s experiences using personal informatics tools to collect and reflect on data about themselves.

This summer, we are running a more focused study to explore how people reflect on their personal informatics data. The study consists of two one-hour interviews (a few weeks apart) at Carnegie Mellon University.

In the first interview we will observe how you explore your data using your personal informatics tool and ask you questions about what you learn from your data.

In the second interview, we will show you different designs of graphs and visualizations and ask you about your thoughts on the designs. Participants will be paid $10 per hour of interview.

You are eligible to participate in the study if:

  • you live near Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 
  • you use personal informatics tools to keep track of personal information (e.g.,physical activity, blood glucose level, spending habits, energy usage, weight, etc.).

If you are interested in participating, please complete the pre-questionnaire (http://ianli.com/pi/2010pre/qs), which has a few questions about the types of information that you keep track of. We will select interview participants from among those who complete the pre-questionnaire.

If you have questions, please email me at ianli@cmu.edu.

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