Why did you start Self tracking?
There are five topics floating around the internet on the lore of my life and story.
- My mother inspired me to look at my life through a beautiful lens of diary keeping.
- My health was failing and I felt there had to be an easier way to understand my behavior.
- The economy was evolving in 2008 and I needed to master a new skill set to understand how data would drive IT and IT would drive everything.
- I was tired of putting my information in services that went out of business.
- I was on antidepressants from the age of 19. In the process of weaning off of them, my doctor suggested I keep a log of how I was doing.
How did you start recording your life?
I've kept multiple diaries and cataloging systems going back to my early teens.
- I manually entered information into systems for decades. One of the earliest was a Lotus 123 spreadsheet that tracked the thousands of Michael Jackson-related items I started collecting in the early 80's.
- By the 90's I was saving photocopies of correspondence, menus, and photos and putting them on boards that adorned my home. They were analog "skins" I would wear and reflect upon.
- In 1995, I started saving a copy of all my email correspondence and moved my diaries to electronic systems. All my chat conversations and PC communications were saved in flat files and organized by date.
- The 2000's focused on moving things into a low friction data collection routine, as well as back-filling old data into my digital life record. I was using yahoo pipes, RSS feeds, and BCC emails to get data into my life record automatically. My first websites housed much of my writing and photos.
- 2005 brought my first MySpace account and the first hack to get my data out of that account and keep a secondary backup locally.
- In 2007, Twitter was first to create a way for me to get my data out into the wild and back with minimal effort. Soon after, I was moving Facebook posts off the net and into my archives.
- By 2010 I had created a system by which almost anything I touched electronically would create and archive a record of my behavior.
- In 2011 I brought my first catalog system online; my data would now have a nomenclature. Things I did online and in life were organized into categories like "Financial", "Opinion", "Social", "Knowledge work", and "Environment". For example, sleep data would be categorized under "Health", and the first song I heard upon waking would be archived and tagged "Entertainment".
- Also in 2011, I put into place the first system that would identify, weight for importance, color-code, and map to my day these data types:
Soft data - Constructed, manipulateable identity data.
Hard data - More firm measurements like body weight, decibels, temperature, and blood pressure.
Core data – Such as DNA information, brain wave information, and microbiome data.
- In 2012, as more of my behavior was captured by outside organizations with club cards, traffic light cameras, keyboard loggers and the like, I started looking for a way to understand my behavior from the moment I awoke until the moment I slept.
- Also in 2012, I met Amber Case at Cyborg Camp, and was literally put in front of a crowd to show folks my data. At that point I had thousands of daily data points funneling automatically into a Google calendar; they were color coded, weighted for importance, and searchable.
My life had become a Wikipedia of me.
What have you learned?
Some of my earliest life hacks involved simple relationships between the environment and my behavior. I learned, for example:
- How late I could have a drink without getting up to pee in the middle of the night.
- How what I did on social media, and how I spent my time online, related to how much I did or didn’t exercise.
- How the nutritional value of my food stacked up against the money I spent on that food and the time it took to acquire.
There were thousands of these life data hacks, and they took a deep hold on my day-to-day behavior.
By the end of 2012 I had enough data and routines in place to start shaving pounds off my body, slow my mind, and stop smoking. I understood that binge watching TV was changing the way I ate food, and that posting on social media after exercising produced more "likes".
My life became a continuous feedback loop of condition and response. When I would take work conference calls, if I spoke loudly, I would get an update from my Netatmo sensor. No part of my life wasn't invaded and destroyed by the hyper-vigilance of self-surveillance.
This was also the beginning of an important lesson for me on the power of data over other people and relationships, and how ultimately this created a sense of isolation and independence that I struggled with.
By the beginning of 2014 I had shed close to 100 pounds, was wiser with my spending, was meditating, and had stopped smoking. My career was moving very fast and I was evolving out of most of my relationships with friends, peers, and family.
In 2016, I find that I experience a sort of “data PTSD” about the period from 2011 - 2014. I can only recall those years by looking them up in my archives and trying to understand who I was and how I was reacting.
What about privacy?
Privacy is a social construct. It is an illusion that you have control over your life and the lens of an ego that you consistently work to rebuild. For me, destroying my privacy was the most important thing I constructed.
Growing up, my mom, brother and I were homeless a few times and I can tell you there is no privacy in abuse, low income, or educational systems. I have also been fortunate to see my share of wealth, and in those systems privacy is something that is not talked about because it is concealed within the wealth, privilege, and access.
Privacy can only exist in the vacuum of the middle class or in communities where socialism is a public good.
I would ask you to consider what a post-privacy state would do for the good of humankind; consider looking at your own flexible relationship with privacy.
Ultimately people trade privacy for convenience, economic relief, or both.
What do you hope to gain?
At the core of my heart I believe all people have within them a "basic goodness". This goodness can be cultivated through compassion toward oneself. It creates a space for you to find openness in tough situations or gentleness in deep despair.
It is my belief that we can create technology, applications, systems, services, and devices that exemplify the best parts of our life; we need not feel shamed into hurting each other or ourselves.
What sensors, applications, services, or devices have you used?
Sample listings of devices is located near the end of this text section and before the photo FAQ.
What trends do you feel are important for this decade?
- The Inner-Net - The mesh network of communications that happens between you and the computing attached to your life, and that doesn’t leave your body, environment, or life to travel back to the World Wide Web.
- Existence as a Platform - The code network in our homes, cars, and on our bodies that informs, conspires, and shapes our behaviors and conveniences. Habits and environments coded for our "use".
- Narrative Collapse - The resulting collapse of our understanding of time and our relationship to it. On-demand TV, music, cars, relationships, food. The relentless now of things undone, the checklists unfulfilled.
- Ownership Collapse - Streaming everything, ephemeral media, licensing of content. The renter economy, where physical goods are exchanged for digital services.
- Identity Collapse - Our daily constructed ego via the digital systems we use, their personalization molding to our continuously moving attention. The reputation economy where numbers define influence and temporary authenticity garners momentary authority only advocated by the next garish display of honesty. Hash tag values that trend with the weather and global pulse of a population starving to be creators in a world where no one consumes.
- Weaponized Information – Temporal-based, authority-laden digital assets that perform as a surrogate for studied and contemplated histories and future scenarios. The cult of FOMO asserting its privilege into attention.
- Convenience Addiction - Our daily agitation as people become less reliable and consistent than our digital doppelgangers. We want people to function like machines and machines to function like people. We prefer people on the phone, machines in person, and services in-between. Our evolutionary processes are being eroded away by the daily ease at which we can create, consume, and lose our way.
- Digital Afterlife - The gross defects in digital systems that had not considered the importance of assets locked away from the world under the guise of privacy. Our digital photos, record albums, report cards. The millions of systems we hide our lives inside.
- Behavioral Currency - The potential of creating an economy where financial transactions are augmented in a real-time value exchange dependent on the volume, value, and velocity of our behavior. Grocery market purchases that change in pricing like a barrel of oil based on a free market of consumer behavior that is traded in the wild. Publically traded personalities where decisions are created and supported by the shareholders of the recipients. As if "Go Fund Me" was managed by the Hunger Games.
- Platform Consolidation - The move away from old systems of influence to hyper niche services owned by digital market giants. From Instagram to Periscope, MyFitnessPal to Moves, our behavior platforms are consumed by mega corporations and merged into our heterogeneous identity platforms.
- Digital Obsolescence - The decay of historical digital assets. The need to create redundant organic and digital archives of our lives, and make them accessible for generations to come.