Quantified Self: Can We Measure What Really Matters?

Chris Anderson’s April 7, Google+ post describes the quantified self lifestyle:

Philips DirectLife, Nike Fuelband, Polar FA20 Activity monitor watch, a Withings scale, a Zeo, and Runkeeer on the iPhone.

Chris’ wife has a FitBit, Zeo, and Runkeeper.   The kids wear Zamzees.  To say that movement is tracked is an understatement.

But where does quantity meet quality?  

What else might we measure?  

I’ve long been a proponent of measuring heart rate variability and galvanic skin response – which can indicate how relaxed or stressed we are.  

What about measuring how many minutes or hours we are not sitting in front of a screen?  How many minutes or hours we spend outside?  How long we spend enjoying a meal or how much we enjoyed a meal?

Does our current focus on measuring steps and calories keep us in a cerebral thinking and doing state, and distance us from being more wholly embodied, sensing and feeling?  

Do our current quantified self activities measure what’s easily measured or do they measure what really matters?  What else might we measure?

Published by Linda Stone

I coined the phrases continuous partial attention, email apnea, and screen apnea. I write about attention and our relationship to technology.

6 thoughts on “Quantified Self: Can We Measure What Really Matters?

  1. The new extreme sport of looking into a virtual mirror even harder. How many steps did I take? How many calories did I burn? Dissecting the mechanical self, shattering activities into shards of energy-consuming, body-fat conquering, heart-health success. I feel faintly depressed at the thought of the children raised measuring themselves so, step by solitary step.

    Perhaps the step-counting devices could have added apps that measure tangentials, and give ‘attaboys, based on categories like: How many dogs did you pat or ducks did you feed while taking those physical steps? How many stops to pick up the ingredients for an inviting dinner and tickets for an event with family or friends? How many trees or large bodies of water did you pass and did you stop to look? Were flowers involved, hummingbirds, wheeling hawks overhead? How many times did you say “HI!” to anyone in passing, or stop for a chat, or to help someone with a package or across a street or with directions? In other words, points given for every interaction with the actual beautiful world that becomes more rich and lovely for us all, every time a positive interchange is achieved. Not just cutting a path through it all, step by measured step.

  2. Good idea! A couple of days ago, I thought about an experiment where we could take the pulses of employees every couple of hours and examine how they vary by the deadlines they have to meet everyday.

  3. Good one. We have one of those fancy Ironman scales that provides oh-so-much-more information than our weight, and we have been tracking for months, even years! I’d rather measure glasses of wine too.

  4. Really interesting subject! just this past week a professor and I were having the discussion on modern surveillance technologies and whether knowing our every moves truly makes our lives more “efficient” or “better”. I believe for one, that by putting forth so many “necessary” yet “unnecessary” tools such as counting how many steps we take in a day or how many calories we consume in a day, we begin to waste away the essential capability to think on our own without these tools. And secondly that these tools, which essentially are tools for self correction leaves a void for necessary self acceptance. People need to stop criticizing themselves and start loving themselves.

  5. How about measuring all the time that’s not measured? I recently watched the movie “Speed” here in Berlin, it’s about the acceleration of modern-day life. One of the interviewees distinguished between “beat” and “rhythm”, something that I had never thought about. A beat makes you move like a machine, time is divided in equal bits, whereas a rhythm is a groove that comes more naturally. I found that I wake up much better without my phone waking me up, just listening to myself. To develop my own rhythm, without depending on an external device.

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