By: Matthew Jordan and Nikki Pfarr, Artefact
Thanks, in part, to the miniaturization of sensors and related technologies, almost everything is now capable of producing its own data. The “Quantified Self” movement has benefitted from – and is perhaps partially responsible for – the increasing popularity of wearable activity trackers, produced by companies like Fitbit, BodyMedia, Jawbone, and Nike. For some people, having access to a new world of data satisfies a natural self-curiosity. Armed with records of their own food intake, activity levels, health metrics, and even sleep patterns, they see self tracking as a means to deeper self-knowledge.
For others the idea of self-tracking, and the deluge of data that comes with it, is a novelty at best and, at worst, completely overwhelming. As technology continues to advance, however, the reality is that data is increasingly being generated and collected on everyone’s behalf, whether we like it or not. This begs the question: Is there a way to leverage the Quantified Self into something meaningful and relevant to a broader population? How can the products and services we design take advantage of the growing number of self-tracking and data analysis technologies on the market to help improve people’s lives in the long-term?
|Artefact’s Modwells is a concept for a wearable technology platform that collects and assesses health data, and provides feedback and alerts for health management or sharing with healthcare professionals.
Beyond the First Degree of Meaning
To its credit, the Quantified Self movement isn’t without success stories – a few, very dedicated people have used self-tracking to help uncover and manage disease, or lose significant amounts of weight. But for most people, strapping on a wearable activity monitor seems to have led to a lot of personal insights along the lines of, “Huh, that’s interesting” (as in, “Huh, that’s interesting, I walked 5402 steps today”). There’s a novelty to self-tracking, for sure, and for a while it may be enough to get some people to change their behavior. But it’s unclear whether simply tracking and reviewing one’s data will have a more meaningful impact in the long run.
As individuals we make hundreds, if not thousands, of decisions on a daily basis. Studies suggest that the average person makes over 200 decisions each day related to food alone.1 The more we make responsible choices throughout the day, resisting temptation, the more we can become fatigued and begin to exhibit less self control and perseverance in later choices we make and activities we engage in.2