Quantified Self or Quantified Us – A Social Responsibility

Michael Reuter

4 April 2014

Life logging, tracking, the Quantified Self, the Quantified Life – and now the Quantified Us? Do we need more or better expressions for this global trend which motivates people to change their behavior?

Matthew Jordan and Nikki Pfarr from Artefact make their case for changing the Quantified Self into Quantified Us. The first degree of meaning, that is to know your personal data, is the first step for all life loggers: by collecting data about their behavior they can compare their subjective perception of movements, food intake etc. with the reality. And get meaning from that, such as: “Ah, I see – I don’t run 10 kilometers every second day but I run 7.5 kilometers twice a week – on average.”

After having learned about oneself, the user takes action – the second degree of meaning: she buys new running shoes to please herself and then she extends her weekly parcours to 10 kilometers, completed every second day. Lesson learned, quality of life of the individual improved.

The third degree of meaning would be added, when people get advice to make better use of their – and other people’s – data in the moments when decisions are actually made. A basic requirement for the third degree is that people (anonymously) share their personal data.

Matthew and Nikki prefer a Quantified Us approach to the Quantified Self. They call for groups of like-minded people quantifying themselves and sharing their data with each other. Apps which support those groups should help the users to make it easier to collect the data and to get a personal meaning from the data.

We could not phrase that better – and this is exactly the our approach at Datarella with our app explore: By asking our users questions we make it very easy for them to track those parts of their individual behavior which cannot be tracked by sensors but have to be added manually. She does not see a blank page which he has to fill by being highly creative , but by answering questionnaires, the user is guided and is able to add lots of contents in a very short time.

Second, explore user get feedback on their own behavior as well as the behavior of other users. They can use the answers of others as benchmark – and they see their individual position within the explore community.

These two aspects let every user provide their personal individual data as useful community data: by adding her own data, everybody is acting as an important piece of the puzzle. And, as known from P2P networks, such as Skype, the result for each individual will improve with every new participant in the network or community.

Coming back to Quantified Self vs Quantified Us: yes, we totally agree that the social – or community – factor is necessary for the movement to become socially relevant. But we think that the individual – the self – is the key factor in the game: the individual must decide to participate in one of the most important movements ever, or to stand still and rely on traditional eveolutionary mechanisms.

We’d love to read your thoughts on that!