Want to be happy? SMILE!

Want to be happy? SMILE!

What unites poets, philosophers, psychologists, neurologists and economists? They all are interested in what makes us happy. Sure, they have their distinct perspectives: one is interested in people’s feelings, the other wants to know what people value and the latter is interested in how people’s brains respond to rewards. Even governments try to measure and increase the happiness of their citizens. Measuring happiness is easier than you might think. First, we can ask people how they feel and have them rate that feeling on a scale. That’s what we do with our explore app day by day. Second, we can use MRI to measure blood flow in the brain, or EMG to evaluate and record the electrical activity produced by our skeletal „smile“ muscles in the face. Very often, the results of the easy survey and those of the biomechanic treatments are highly correlated – that’s why we’re pretty content with our explore interaction results. Then, there is this difference between synthetic happiness and real, or natural, happiness. We produce synthetic happiness when we don’t get what we want. The reason: things have less impact on happiness than we expect them to have. It seems that most experiences – bad and […]

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Data Courtesy

Data Courtesy

Picture above: The court of Louis XVI is regared as the ecstasy of courtesy. Esprit, the bon-mot and the courtly attire had been overdone to an extend never to be reached again. The end: the terror – the most uncourtly form of social cohabition. „Privacy invasion is now one of our biggest knowledge industries.“ „The more the data banks record about us, the less we exist.“ Marshall McLuhan „Handle so, dass du die Menschheit sowohl in deiner Person, als in der Person eines jeden anderen jederzeit zugleich als Zweck, niemals bloß als Mittel brauchst.“ („Act in such a way that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, always at the same time as an end and never merely as a means to an end“) Immanuel Kant „Being socially exposed is OK when you hold a lot of privilege, when people cannot hold meaningful power over you, or when you can route around such efforts. Such is the life of most of the tech geeks living in Silicon Valley. But I spend all of my time with teenagers, one of the most vulnerable populations because of their lack of agency (let alone rights). […]

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Could we learn all about behavior change by simply applying some makeup?

Could we learn all about behavior change by simply applying some makeup?

At the Quantified Self Conference 2014 in Amsterdam, I attended a breakout session with the promising title „The Future Of Behavior Change“, moderated by Lukasz Piwek, a Research Fellow in Behavioral Change at the Bristol Business School. Our curious and engaged crowd discussed that matter extensively and – unsurprisingly – left the session with more questions than answers. But: „it’s not about the answers, it’s about find more questions. Answers are so temporary“, as Ernesto Ramirez, the Quantified Self Lab’s Program Director elegantly tweeted. As a good researcher, Lukasz himself offered some possible answers but concluded that definitely more research is needed. Based on his studies at Bristol Business School, he thinks that these factors lead to a lack of long-term user involvement while using Quantified Self tools, which is a major condition for behavior change: – Lack of data validity and reliability – Oversimplification of inferences Regarding his first point, I take the risk of completely ignoring (his) research and putting my shirt on good judgement (which I usually avoid to do): I claim that people don’t bother at all, ignore any scientific shortcomings and look for comprehensibility and usability of Quantified Self tools: as long as variances of […]

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Another citizen science project: Monitoring ecological change with smartphones

Another citizen science project: Monitoring ecological change with smartphones

Image above: Nerds for Nature setting up #morganfire01. Licenced under CC-BY-SA 2.0 Mobile citizen science – people jointly contributing to research with their smartphones – has been a frequent topic on this blog (e.g. here, http://datarella.com/helping-people-to-understand-real-time-pollution-risks/, or http://datarella.com/mapping-particulate-dust-with-phones/). What makes it so compelling, is that on the one hand the crowd of participants can generate much more measurements than would be possible with just one team of researchers, on the other hand, it is way less expensive. In the case of Nerds for Nature, the research set-up is truely minimalistic. The task, Nerds-for-Nature set, is to monitor the recovering flora and fauna at Mount Diablo State Park after a major wild fire, over the course of months and years. To do this, they installed a makeshift camera-stand at different locations, overlooking the desater area. They placed a sing next to the stand, with very simple instructions: „Place the camera phone in the bracket.“ „Take a photo of the view without filter.“ „Post your picture using #diablofire01 to Twitter, Flickr and Instagram.“ The project went viral, when Sergej Kropenin who works for Twitter, endorsed the project with posting an image and the text „Cool use of twitter„. This has been retweeted […]

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Tracking Scents and Long-Term Memories

Tracking Scents and Long-Term Memories

Image above: Our olfactory sense and our long-term memories are tied together. To track places lost, I have collected boxes; the smell inside triggers my memory. Cats are more attached to places than to their masters, so people say. Although I doubt that this is really true literally, felines are certainly attached to their territory. Cats, dogs, as most mammals, recognize their place by its scent – which they also enrich with their own pheromones. When we humans smell something, that reminds us of some place we have been to, the memoric sensation that is evoked, feels often like the place in its whole, including everything that took place there. Such a gestalt can have overwhelming power, sucking us into the past. (Now I must not miss to quote Proust here, because it seams you can’t write about memories triggered by aroma without reference to ‚À la recherche du temps perdu‘, so here you are.) Scents cannot be digitized. Because we never smell anything without adding all our long-term memories to the sensation, it is impossible to find a common language that transports how we experience the scent. Other than visual impressions, haptics, temperature, which can be shared verbally with […]

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Ethics for the Quantified Self

Ethics for the Quantified Self

The diagram above shows the development of the frontooccipital circumference of a child’s head. We measure the growth of our children to track their healthy development. Only with the context of benchmarks does the data become meaningful. Without sharing, it is useless. „Why Quantified Self Is The Next Big Thing“ tells Michael Reuter in the last post on this blog. And I agree: The economic drive but even more the social incentives we earn from QS will lead its evolvement to ubiquity. With this in mind, we should take a step back, and pause for a moment to think through some of the consequences a quantified society will bear on our lives, and on alternative routes this development might take along its path. This post touches topics I took from a conversation on Twitter I had with Whitney Erin Boesel and Anne Wright (see here). Quantified Self or Quantified Other? „Quantified Toilet“ was a nice piece of design fiction: big data collection from analyzing feces in a public toilet. It would not have been a good hoax if there wasn’t a short link to reality. In public space as well as in privatly owned para-public spaces like shopping malls, we […]

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Why Quantified Self Is The Next Big Thing

Why Quantified Self Is The Next Big Thing

During the weekend of May 10-12, 250 students, scientists, artists, venture capitalists and entrepreneurs gathered at the Quantified Self Conference #qseu14 in Amsterdam, the fifth conference of its kind and the second one taking place in Europe. First timers, not being familiar with the concept of QS, got used to it pretty quickly and absorbed the essential aspects easily, as some of them told me during the breaks. For me, it was a great experience and I learned even more than during #qseu13: the program was even more dense with most session descriptions reading so promising that selecting the „best ones“ became quite tough. A nice location (the Casa 400) and a oerfect organisation (you won’t find a that kind of catering at other conferences) by Marcia and her team made the #qseu14 a real treat. The Next Big Thing And yet, this great experience is not the reason for this post. I think that the Quantified Self marks the beginning of the biggest societal shift since the Industrial Revolution. Or, to tone it a little bit down and to limit the claim to the more mundane area of economics: QS is the Next Big Thing. QS is the redistribution […]

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Some Twitter stats for #qseu14

Some Twitter stats for #qseu14

The Quantified Self Europe Conference 2014 had shown some activity on Twitter, as expected. 156 different people twittered using the #qseu14 tag. Nevertheless the absolute number of #qseu14-tweets slightly declined to ~1100 in 2014 from ~1700 in 2013. The Twitter-activity, again hardly surprising, was higher on Saturday: A nice hint on the socializing quality of the event gives the proportion of tweets sent as replies, which was higher on Sunday; maybe thus showing the more personal conversations. The connections between the conference are shown in this network graph: Two twitterers are clearly standing out: Number one again is Whitney Erin Boesel (@weboesel) with 196 tweets, almost reaching her last year’s count of 221 (then twittering under the nick of @phenatypical); number two is me (@jbenno) with 133 tweets, which means I have more than doubled, even if I had been the second highest scoring participant then, too. Here’s an easy overview of the most common words with stopwords removed: And these are the idioms: the most common trigrams (=three consequtive words): I will post thoughts and impressions that I took home from #qseu14 soon, too. Here is my post from #qseu13: http://beautifuldata.net Other posts regarding the Quantified Self Europe Conference […]

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Datarella People: Max Gotzler, Basketballer & Entrepreneur

Here is the transcript of the Datarella (DR) interview with Maximilian ‚Max‘ Gotzler at the Quantified Self Conference 2014 in Amsterdam. DR At the Quantified Self Conference 2014 in Amsterdam, we’re together with Maximilian Gotzler, semi-professional basketballer and Berlin-based entrepreneur. Max, could you introduce yourself and tell us why you are here at the Quantified Self conference? Max First, I’m personally interested in Quantified Self: I want to know what’s new and how everything is evolving. Then, I held a presentation about a self-experiment about testosterone. And last but not least, I have presented my own startup biotrackr in an office hour. DR A self-experiment on testosterone – that sounds pretty interesting. Can you tell us more about that? Max It all started last year during some sort of a winter depression, when my blood test a relatively low level of testosterone. Since then I’ve tried to enhance this level by changing my nutrition and some aspects of my lifestyle, and I’ve presented the results here at the conference yesterday. DR What are the results? Max The results show that nutrition, sleep and stress have a big impact on the hormone balance, and especially on the testosterone level. Those three […]

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Datarella People: Dan Berglund, Senior Developer at Narrative

Here’s the transcript of the Datarella (DR) interview with Dan Berglund of Stockholm-based life-logging startup Narrative. DR At the Quantified Self Conference 2014 in Amsterdam, we’re together with Dan Berglund from Swedish startup Narrative. Dan, could you introduce yourself and tell us a bit about Narrative? Dan Sure. I work as a Software Engineer at Narrative, a software and hardware company which makes a very tiny mobile camera that takes photos of everything you see. Photos are taken every 30 seconds, then they’re aggregated and we show you a meaningful representation of your data life. DR You’re wearing a narrative camera. Could you show it to us and explain what this camera does in comparison with a typical camera? Dan Yes. Here it is. It’s working automatically – so you wear it at your shirt or jacket, and it takes photos every 30 seconds. If you want to turn it off, you just put it into your pocket. Then we offer a service, which is connected with the camera: it aggregates all photos and tries to find the best ones by grouping together similar photos. So at the end, you have a diary of your life. DR What is the […]

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