QSEU14 Breakout Session: Data Futures
May 28, 2014
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.