Quantified Humanists Week1

Part 1: Data Double

This is a documentation of a series of online services that contain data about how I interact with technology, the purpose of this blog post is to be accountable about the data that I have requested and the data that I have been able to collect during the first week of class.

So far I have requested data from the following services:

  • Clue

  • Instagram

  • Gmail

  • Youtube

  • Google Maps

  • Strava

  • Facebook

  • Amazon

Interesting Findings: The Information architecture of the websites and services is specifically designed to make it harder to the user to request the data. It was a long process only to be able to find a link to request the information and most of them took a long wait time to receive. I also notices that some of the emails didn’t arrive in my main “received” emails, instead they arrived to t he “promotions” tab which gave me problems because some of the links (like LinkedIn) expired before I could download it.

In the case of Facebook data it is interesting to see a json file with my “ad interests” and I am curious to explore and visualize this kind of information. It was also interesting (and very distracting) to see all the pictures that I have ever uploaded to the platform, even the ones that are no longer visible in my profile.

The most interesting package was definitely the Google one, which allowed me to download Youtube, Maps, Gmail and pictures all at once. It was very weird to start looking at the pictures because it contains very old pictures that I never uploaded anywhere but were probably part of an email or a conversation.

I am still waiting to receive data from the following services:

  • LinkedIn

  • Spotify

I need to request data from the following services:

  • CityMapper

  • Lyft

  • Venmo

  • Eventbrite

Part 2: Self-Tracking Projects Review

Project1: Clue app

Clue is a female health app developed by the Berlin-based technology company BioWink GmbH. It calculates and predicts a user's period, fertile window, and premenstrual syndrome. It also informs users the most or least likely time for becoming pregnant and allows them to track more than 30 health categories, including sex, sleep, pain, exercise, hair, skin, digestion, emotions and energy.

The UI of the app is very simple and intuitive which encourages the user to submit and track the data however I believe that the most important feature of the app is that it gives the women a very accurate and actionable data visualization. For example if I am consistent (which I try to do), I will have a notification normally two days before I get my period, which helps me be prepared. It also indicated me when I am in more fertile so that I can avoid having sex if I don’t want to have kids in this moment.

Photo credit:  helloclue.com

Photo credit: helloclue.com

The project is important for me because it has helped me track my period and my mood changes and understant my body in a better way. I am aware that the fact that I keep tracking my data is mostly influenced by the good data visualization design and the accuracy of the information and knowledge that I am able to extract from the “numbers” that I input every month as tabs in the screen.

Project 2: Bruises — The Data We Don’t See

Bruises is a data visualization that uses graphics and music to display the clinical and emotional data from a patient with the Idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP) condition. The project was developed by Georgia Lupi in collaboration with Kaki King.

It all started when Kaki discovered blood in her 3 year old daughter and when she hospitalized her the doctors diagnosed her the condition. In that moment Kaki communicated the sad news to her friend Georgia, who decided to start a project to be able to track the progress of the illness from the clinical side but also the emotional implications on Kaki.

“The doctor’s directive to us was to watch her skin for any significant changes. Since I had been working with Giorgia I had learned to do personal data collection, so I began to write down what I was seeing on Cooper’s skin, what activities we did that day, what treatments she had and what her reading were, as well as how I was feeling. My fear, stress, my hope. My thoughts and feelings.” —Kaki King

The project uses graphical elements that are displayed over time showing information collected such as: Skin, medications, platelet count (from Kaki’s daughter) and also tracks the hope/stress experimented by Kaki.

Bruises Project by Georgia Lupi  Photo Credit:  Georgia Lupi Bruises

Bruises Project by Georgia Lupi

Photo Credit: Georgia Lupi Bruises

This project is of great interest to me because it uses data to communicate a story but specially it works for the purpose of documenting the progress or the clinical conditions in a very unexpected way. Normally the graphics that a doctor shows a patient are scary and meaningless however Georgia’s and Kaki’s graph is a visual representation of pain, suffering and hope in a very beautiful and expressive way.

I also believe that this kind of data visualization needs to have a narrator, it is not possible to fully understand the chart by only looking and reading at it, therefore the uses of this kind of visualization will never replace the more clinical and accurate data visualization however it works as an emotional reinforcement for storytelling.

Project 3: Garmin Connect + Strava

The third project that I would like to analyze is a combination of technologies for fitness tracking that I have been using for almost two years and I would like to analyze the positive and negative implications of using these technologies and how they have had an impact on the way that I train and exercise over time.

I have a Garmin watch for Triathlon (even though I am not one) and I use it with the mobile app “Garmin Connect”. When I was part of a running team back in Costa Rica my coach would assign training sessions to me and I was able to follow them by tracking my heart rate during the time I was running. At the end of each training session I would upload it to Garmin connect and that would give my coach the possibility to analyze how my performance was and how it compared with previous sessions.

The fact that Garmin Connect allows the user to visualize the data in a graphic way and save the training sessions is very useful to track the progress, the app and the watch will also give notifications when the user achieve a new record which sometimes helps motivating and encouraging a better performance.

Garmin and Strava mobile apps  Image credit:  Connect.garmin

Garmin and Strava mobile apps

Image credit: Connect.garmin

Image Credit:  road.cc

Image Credit: road.cc

I have also used Strava connected to my device and specifically the social component, I used with my ex co-workers for an internal competition in my previous company, in which we would track the miles that we run, biked and swam in order to choose a winner at the end of each month. The social component of Strava was very interesting and it was a way to keep us accountable.

Also an interesting use case that we gave Strava as a remote team (working from India, Costa Rica and US) was to be able to see the maps and roads of the other coworkers and be able to leave comments and motivate them to keep training or challenge them for specific races.

I also wanted to comment what happened when the GPS of my Garmin failed and I had to go back to training with no tracking at all. It was a very interesting experience and it gave me the possibility to enjoy physical activity for how it made me feel instead of only focussing on the numbers and the graphics. I got my Garmin back a couple of weeks ago and it aligned with the beginning of this class therefore I decided to go back to tracking my activities, steps and sleep. This time my goal is to use technology as a complimentary indicator of my wellbeing and physical performance instead of leaving all the responsibility in the data collection and visualization.

Part 3: Reflection

I believe I have already used this assignment as a reflection of my relationship with self tracking devices and technologies, however I would like to expand on a couple of issues that I have found and how I hope to improve them by continuing self tracking.

In general I use self tracking (consciously) for my fertile cycle and for my fitness and activities. This might be a little bit too personal information however I believe it is important to expand on my relationship with self tracking. I mentioned in the first example above that I use the Clue app to track my period, the pain and emotions that it causes in my body and mind. I recently got an IUD as a fertility method however I want to keep using Clue as a way to track how my period behaves (even though it is now controlled by hormones) and how my feelings and emotions are going to change now that I have this device that is constantly providing my body with hormones. I believe that this app have the potential to be able to identify if there are weird behaviors in my body (specially during the first six months of having the device) therefore I want to continue my tracking using Clue and getting meaningful feedback from the data visualization of my cycle.

In the side of the fitness tracking, I would like to give my Garmin watch an adequate use and be able to extract meaningful knowledge out of the numeric data collection, I have experienced before a lack of engagement because I was only collecting data but not letting my body communicate by itself. This time I would like to use the technology as a mean of expanding the signals that my body is giving me instead of using data as the main point of focus.

My hopes with self tracking are to start being more conscious about how I eat and exercise and how that affects my emotions, I would also like to track how many times during the week I eat home cooked meals vs street food or restaurants (I would like to keep track of this both for health and financial reasons). I am very interested in the intersections of self tracking with different approaches and how that might give me a better understanding of the relationship between my body and my emotions.

The beggining of this interest started last semester (1 year at ITP), when I started having panic attacks, this has never happened before and I don’t have a clear understanding of what triggers them and how could I prevent them from happening. I believe that it is a combination of many different reasons that trigger such condition such as lack of sleep, high levels of stress caused by school assignments, interaction with new people and also the lack of physical activity. I believe that self tracking some of this behaviors might be a very interesting project to understand how my mind is reacting to my new daily routine and how can I improve the way I live now.

I don’t in data collection and data visualization for the sake of it and I am not that interested in visualizations that are too complex that need to be explained (like some of the Georgia Lupi’s projects), instead I am interested in the analysis and simplification of data to provide meaningful knowledge and actionable items to improve people’s lives.