Which is Better: Automated or Manual?

August 9, 2010

For many of us, the answer seems obvious: why do something manually when you can automate it? But when it comes to personal data, automation involves a trade-off. As Project HealthDesign‘s principal investigator Anind K. Dey points out in this blog post, automation suffers from the drawback of “out of sight, out of mind.” (Dey is referencing work by QS contributor Ian Li, especially his “Mobile Impact” project.)

The important point of Dey’s post is that if you don’t give any attention to collection, you may not integrate the data into your consciousness in a meaningful way. Manual collection, while more laborious, also provides opportunities for increased self-awareness.

The point of self-tracking is not the data, it’s the meaning; generating meaning is an activity of consciousness. There is a limit to the virtues of passivity.

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