6 November 2017 PR Musings Tech

Quantified Self: Tracking with Personal Technology

Do you use an app that tracks how many steps you take in a day? Tracks your workouts? Your sleeping pattern?  If so, you are part of the growing cultural movement towards the ‘quantified self’ with personal tracking.

Quantified self (QS), also known as ‘lifelogging’ or ‘personal analytics’, is the process of tracking personal data generated by people’s own behavioural activities. The term was made popular by Wired editors Gary Wolf and Kevin Kelly, who describe the QS movement as “a collaboration of users and tool makers who share an interest in self-knowledge through self-tracking.”

Gadgets and apps like the ever-popular Fitbit and Nike+ Run Club are just two examples of lifelogging. By tracking workouts, runs, and steps, these technologies turn personal activity into measurable data. While particularly prevalent in the fitness space, lifelogging technologies are cropping up in more and more daily activities. Here’s a few examples:

  • Moodpanda: tracks an individual’s mood on a daily basis.
  • Sleepbot: tracks average hours of sleep and implements recommended sleep schedule.
  • Instant: tracks phone usage, sleep, travel and fitness in their dashboard-style app.

But, it’s not just apps. The growing popularity of wearable tech, like Apple Watch and Google Glass, is propelling the QS movement even further. For example, Muse is a wearable headband that enhances the meditation process and tracks progress through its connected smartphone app.

Even technologies that weren’t traditionally designed for lifelogging are beginning to incorporate personal analytics to complement user experience. Kobo eReaders, for instance, track data to deliver users with personal reading statistics, including average hours read, and reading speed

So why do people lifelog? Ultimately, it comes down to awareness, accountability, and action. Maybe you’ve set a new personal goal of walking 10,000 steps a day. Unless you’re tracking this activity, it’s exceptionally difficult to be accurately aware of what you’re currently doing, be held accountable if you’re not doing it, and plan action to improve. This is all compounded by the wellness trend and drive for consumers for a more personalised, tailored experience from brands.

Beyond helping to achieve personal goals, lifelogging also offers a sense of community. Like Gary Wolf describes it, lifelogging is a “collaboration”. Individuals often share their data with others as much as they track it. Apps can be linked to social media accounts, allowing users to share stats, accomplishments or progress with friends on their profiles.

As technology advances and the advent of Web 2.0 draws society deeper into data-rich environments, the idea of being able to measure every aspect of the human experience is fast becoming a reality. However, the increasing datafication of everyday activity comes with its risks. An “always-on” society forfeits privacy and leaves all the personal data from lifelogging vulnerable to hackers.

Still, people continued to be fascinated by their own data, and that combined with the recent growth of the wearable technology market suggests the future of the quantified-self movement through personal technology will see it grow in new and exciting ways.

Written by Jordan Maahs, Cherish PR.

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