Quantified Self Europe, two talks proposed

October 12th, 2011
by jodi

Thanksgiving weekend doesn’t really register in Europe. But this year it will for me: I’m going to Amsterdam for Quantified Self Europe, since I’m lucky enough to have a scholarship covering conference fees.

Today I proposed two talks:

  1. Weight and exercise tracking (which I’ve been doing in various forms for 19 months, currently using a Phillips DirectLife exercise monitor, and a normal scale, collected with the hacker’s diet). Mainly, these are less integrated than they could be, and I’d like to advocate interoperability, APIs, and uniform formats — while hopefully getting some ideas from the audience about quick hacks to improve my current system.
  2. Lifetracking, privacy & the surveillance society. This brings together two themes: First, how individuals’ lifetracking can be seen as a re-enactment of privacy, with changed ideas of what that means (e.g. panopticon, sousveillance, etc.). Second, the increased awareness about the wealth of personal data held by corporations (e.g. German politician Malt Spitz sued to get 6 months of his telcom data). The boundary between public life and private life is continually shifting as communication technology and social norms evolve; this talk investigates how lifetracking and the quantified self movement push the privacy/publicity boundaries in multiple ways. QS increases the public audience for data-driven stories of private lives while also highlighting the need for individuals to control access to and the disposition of their own personal data.

Ironically, self-surveillance was an academic interest of mine before it became a personal one:  Back in 2009, Nathan Yau and I wrote a paper for the ASIST Bulletin about self-surveillance (PDF) [less pretty in HTML]. It helped interest me in the Semantic Web, too: putting data in standard formats would make it easier to make data-driven visualizations, so lifetracking and the quantified self movement is a great usecase for the (social) Semantic Web. QS also shows how privacy cuts both ways and could provide an early-adopter audience for the kind of fine-grained privacy tools a colleague is developing.

(A first reply to Nic’s encouragement)

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