Boing Boing on GOOD: You Are Your Data

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My latest contribution to the "Boing Boing On GOOD" series is a look at the Quantified Self, the idea of collecting deep personal data to better understand how you are, and who you are. From GOOD:

Since 1955, Jerry Davidson has obsessively written down everything he does during the day: visits to the store, telephone calls, meals, sex. Davidson has an impenetrable code, involving abbreviations and multiple colors of inks. A star on the top of a page means Jerry had a good day. Davidson never writes in the first person though, always in the third. He takes himself out of his experiences. His life is raw data.

When I first heard Jerry's story, on a 1998 episode of This American Life, I thought he was just another interesting eccentric, like so many people featured on that radio program. Hearing the same program a few weeks ago though made me realize that Jerry Davidson is a pioneer. If Jerry lived in Silicon Valley and ran in the right nerd circles, he'd realize he isn't alone in his unique habit of self-measurement. Indeed, he's just another "quantified self," a person who embraces the technology at hand–in his case scraps of paper and colored markers–for deep self surveillance and analysis. A growing number of individuals are using new sensors, social networks, online data repositories, open-access science journals, and sheer discipline to view their bodies, minds, and spirits through the lens of data.

"The Quantified Self: You Are Your Data"