Personal data tracking-self-management or paranoia?
With the democratization of the technologies in the web, data has become an important issue not only for researchers but also for ordinary people. The article: “A Data Driven Life”, published by the NY Times on April 2010, shows how individuals go tracking their own lives in order to make better and informed decisions [even though some times it makes them more paranoid than anything else]. The article talks about several examples taking place mostly in the US. One of these cases is www.medhelp.org, which is a popular forum where individuals log in data in order to get answers to some of their health problems. There is estimation that individuals launch more than 30,000 tracking projects every month [Gary Wolf, 2010].
Or what about “Daytum”, created by Nick Feltron, a kind of “Google Analytics” [stats for website/blog tracking] for your OWN PERSONAL DATA. Is a platform that allows you to collect, categorize and communicate your data in very visuals way. The article puts forward more examples like this one, entailing individuals logging in their computers the minutia of their daily lives to answer their own particular questions. Even Gary Wolf goes through a series of individual cases of [what he calls] “geeks” logging in data as a daily process, indicating that this is a “weird” or different approach than normal people, it makes me think, what if all individuals have the possibility to count on that data?
These types of data tracks could be empowering for individuals to make their own decisions about the way they live their lives. Nonetheless, there are obviously controversial issues when doing this. How do these individuals make sense of this information? Is the computer process able to give complete meaning to the user? How can we filter irrelevant data? Now, Wolf talks about the quantification and mining of data [no wonder he has a site called the Quantified Self. I believe, this site has great potential, yet there are some tribulations like relying of inexistent habits of ordinary individuals to make systematized logs of information. People like Benjamin Franklin did maintain a journal, but are we all that systematic?
Check on Gary’s TED TALK