Topic Archives: Videos

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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Rain Ashford on Wearing Physiological Data

Rain Ashford is a PhD student in the Art and Computational Technology Program at Goldsmiths, University of London. Her work is based on the concept of “Emotive Wearables” that help communicate data about ourselves in social settings. This research and design exploration has led her to create unique pieces of wearable technology that both measure and reflect physiological signals. In this show&tell talk, filmed at the 2013 Quantified Self Europe Conference, Rain discusses what got her interested in this area and one of her current projects – the Baroesque Barometric Skirt.

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Alex Collins on Managing Type 1 Diabetes

Last year Alex Collins was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. Prior to his diagnosis Alex was frequently engaged in different types of exercise and physical activity. After his diagnosis his doctor mentioned that he might have a hard time exercising and controlling his blood sugar to prevent hypoglycemia. In this talk, presented at the London QS meetup group, Alex described his process for tracking and understanding the data that affects his day-to-day life so that he could “live my life normally without a high risk of complications.” This process of collecting and analyzing data has even pushed him to continue to explore his athletic boundaries, resulting in a running a ultramarathon and setting the world record for the fastest marathon while running in an animal costume.

Slides are available here.

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Kiel Gilleade: Rhythmanalysis

Kiel Gilleade has been interested in measuring and visualizing physiological data for quite a while. In 2011, he presented his BodyBlogger project at the 2011 QS Europe Conference. In that talk he described what he learned from tracking and exploring a year of continuous heart rate data. This year, at the 2014 QS Europe Conference, Kiel returned to talk about a new project, Rhythmanalysis. Rhythmanalysis was a project centered on “visualising the biological rhythms of employees at different workplaces.” In this short talk, Kiel describes his experience working on this project and some of the lessons he learned along the way.

If you’re interested in learning more about this work I highly suggest you visit Kiel’s website where he has additional videos of visualizations he’s been working on that use data collected as part of this project.

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Alex Tarling on Tracking and Changing Happiness

Alex Tarling starting using the Mappiness app to track his happiness along with other contextual data. Over time the ritual of having to ask himself, “How happy am I?” three times a day started to get him thinking about how he thought about his own happiness and what that meant to him. In this talk, presented at the 2014 Quantified Self Europe Conference, Alex talks about his experience, some of the data he gathered, and how a slight change in attitude has increased his self-rating of happiness over time.


You can also view the slides here.

What did you do?
I tracked my own experience of happiness several times per day, along with location, what I was doing and who I was with.

How did you do it?
I used the Mappiness app to track my rating of happiness and other contextual data such as what I was doing and who I was with. –

What did you learn?
I can’t measure my own happiness without affecting it, one way or another. Happiness is a conscious cognitive assessment of feelings, beliefs and behaviours that tends to be a habitual pattern of thinking.
Given that it’s a mental habit, it is possible to make an intentional choice to change it. As Abraham Lincoln said, “Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be.”

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Morris Villarroel: A Four-Year Journal

Four years ago Morris Villarroel was inspired to start writing things down. He started with a simple Muji notebook and begun adding some structure such as daily logs, life events, and review of books and articles he had read. In the process of filling out over 130 journals his process has evolved to include journaling about other important aspects of his life. In this talk, presented at the 2014 Quantified Self Europe Conference, Morris explains his journaling in detail, gives a few examples of how he’s able to analyze the data he’s tracking in his journals, and explains how this process has improved his reflection and preparation for future events.


You can also view the slides here.

What did you do?
Kept a log book of daily events over the past four years in muji notebooks, including work, personal life and readings.

How did you do it?
The writing evolved into different sections, including an agenda, food page, idea page, book index and readings written from back to front. I titled each page with the main events and included all pages and events in an excel spreadsheet for easy access and analysis.

What did you learn?
That most events in my life can be classified as work (57%), personal (32%) and writings (11%) and were not very correlated with steps (Fitbit data), and a little more with floors. The whole process also inculcated more reflection on the preparation of events, their intensity and reviewing and reusing results, to then improve preparation in the future.

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Jan-Geert Munneke on Tracking Snoring and Sleep

Jan-Geert Munneke has had an issue with snoring for quite a while. He started off his self-tracking journey by tracking his snoring with the Snore Lab app. Having this data led him to think about how he could understand what was going on while he was sleeping. So, he decided to incorporate more sensors to better track his sleep. In this talk, from our 2013 Quantified Self Europe Conference, Jan-Geert describes what he found from combining data from different devices and how it’s inspired him to think about how he could track other aspects of his sleep.

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Brian Crain on Optimizing Productivity

There are many people in the QS community who are fascinated by understanding productivity. We’ve featured many different talks that explore different methods for tracking and hopefully improving productivity. At the 2014 Quantified Self Europe Conference we were happy to continue this exploration with a show&tell talk by Brian Crain. Brian has been thinking about his productivity since 2011. He tried a few different methods, but he’s found that using the pomodoro technique has been very helpful in understanding and improving his work. Watch his talk below to learn what he found by tracking the number of pomodoros he completes each day and what new methods he’s using to make sure he gets things done.


You can also view the slides here.

What did you do?
I started tracking my work time using the Pomodoro Technique in 2011 and have been logging all my sessions since September 2012. While, I have kept experimenting with different productivity methods, my consistent usage of the Pomodoro Technique has given me a great view of changes over time. I also discussed my experience with tracking my commitments over the past months.

How did you do it?
For the Pomodoro Technique, I would set a task, work on it for 25 minutes, then log the task. Over time, I built a large excel sheet that automatically updates with a variety of metrics that tell me how much productive time I spent working and how that has changed over time. For the commitment tracking, I would use an agenda, where I write down all commitments. I would then cross out completed commitments and track my compliance at the end of each day.

What did you learn?
I learned that having a continuous metric is enormously motivating since it allows you to continually improve yourself. These small, continuous changes make a huge difference over time. I also learned that building a user-interface is tricky, but very important to make tracking rewarding. This is something I successfully did with the Pomodoro Technique, but have found difficult to replicate with other methods. Finally, tracking commitments has taught me how critical one’s mindset is. When I would slip into thinking of commitments as simple tasks, my success with that method derailed completely. So for that method, I realized how important it is to build a system and user interface that helps maintain the commitment mindset.

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Steve Dean: Washing My Eyelids

Steve Dean is the co-organizer of our New York City QS meetup group. He’s also an avid self-tracker, using different methods and tools to understand his life. About three years ago Steve started to experience inflammation along his eyelids. After seeing a dermatologist and being diagnosed with atopic dermatitis he was prescribed a treatment regiment. He wanted to understand if the treatments were working so he created a Google Form to track his symptoms and the treatments he was doing every day. Unfortunately the treatments didn’t work and he went back to the dermatologist. This cycle of tracking, treatment, and frustration at the lack of improvement unfortunately continued. Watch Steve’s talk, presented at the 2014 Quantified Self Europe Conference, to learn how tracking finally helped him understand how to get everything under control.


You can also view the slides here.

What did you do?
Organizing my symptoms and treatments for atopic dermatitis to learn what worked and didn’t work.

How did you do it?
Using my phone’s camera to visually track symptoms and Google Forms to track type of symptoms, various treatments, and how I was feeling.

What did you learn?
It helped me have quality conversations with my dermatologists based on what was working, what wasn’t working in an attempt to find a solution.

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Kay Stoner on Tracking Headaches on Paper

Kay Stoner has a long history of battling chronic health issues, but what bothers her the most is her experience with frequent headaches. Kay has been tracking her headaches since 2007 after she had a hard time communicating with her healthcare providers. What followed were years of attempting different types of methods of tracking, including creating her own web application. After a fair bit of trial and error she’s began to move back from more technical methods and is using her own paper-based tracking system. Watch her talk, presented at the Boston QS meetup group, to learn about her experiences and what she’s learned from tracking her headaches on paper.

I’ve found that keeping a special journal to track my headaches really helps – both me, and my doctors. After several years of trial and error, I designed a system specifically for recording details of my headaches — when and where in my head they happen, how severe they are, and the details about my life at the time. It’s quick, it’s simple, and my doctors can see at a glance where I’m having issues, without wading through a lot of medical terminology.

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