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WEEK 01: JAN 28 2019

Track: Introduction to Self-Tracking and the 'Quantified Self'

"...self-experimentation with data forces us to wrestle with the uncertain line between evidence and belief, and how we come to decisions about what is and is not legitimate knowledge." - Neff, Gina. The Self-Tracking (The MIT Press Essential Knowledge series) (p. 18). The MIT Press.

What is self-tracking? the Quantified Self? How are we represented by the data we produce? Are those representations meaningful? For whom? We will explore these questions and many more throughout this course, "Quantified Humanists: Designing Personal Data". Today, we will introduce some basics of this course, take care of some technical logistics, and dive into the world of self-tracking and personal data collection, reflection, and experimentation.



  • Attendance
  • Introductions
  • Course Logistics
  • Break
  • Self-tracking Overview: context, terminology, methods, & resources
  • Project Highlight
  • Self-tracking brainstorm session
  • Assignment #1

Project Highlight - Critique & Feedback


Felton Reports 2005; 2012

Margaret Rhodes (2015), This Guy Obsessively Recorded his Private Data for 10 years





There are 3 parts of this week's assignment:

  • A1.1: Personal Data Download
  • A1.2: Blog Post: Self-Tracking projects review
  • A1.3: Blog Post: Reflection

A1.1: Personal Data Download

  • About: While we will be working on beginning a practice of data collection starting specifically during this course, we will also be looking back into our personal histories by examining our "data doubles" - the manifestations of ourselves reflected in the data we've produced. This week, your task is to begin looking into your data histories you've produced by using the various tools and services we subscribe to. Some examples might be to request and download your data from all the digital services you use. For example, given my digital habits, I would attemp to download and organize my data from:
    • Facebook
    • Whatsapp
    • iMessage
    • Web browser history
    • Instagram
    • Airbnb
    • Spotify
    • Googlemaps
    • iHealth
    • Duolingo
    • LinkedIn
    • Twitter
    • CityMapper
    • Lyft
    • Car2Go
    • Venmo
    • Splitwise
    • Eventbrite
    • New York Times
    • Amazon
    • Github
  • We will see later on how regulations such as GDPR have influenced how and how we are able to access these data. For now, begin tracking down the digital breadcrumbs of your life. Your task will be to systematically gather the signals of your life as reflected by these tools and services and document the process of collecting these data (e.g. screenshots of sub sub sub menus, notifications, etc). You should ask yourself questions such as:
    • What types of data might be in your data dump?
    • What types of properties might you find in the data that might surpise you?
    • In what ways might you start to make sense of this data? Be specific about any tools or methodologies you're curious about or skills you feel would be necessary to explore in order to work with your data.
  • Your submission might look something like this: Joey's Digital Data Double
  • Submission: Submit your Github Gist/blog post link as a comment in its respective github issue in the quant-humanists-2019 repository. See NOTE below.

A1.2: Blog Post: Self-Tracking Projects Review

  • About: Find 3-5 examples of projects that relate to self-tracking and the quantified self and write a 1. short summary description of the project, 2. the project's broader significance, and 3. why it is interesting to you. When possible, speak to the project implementation as a way to catalog useful methodologies.
  • Examples of past student assignments: 1, 2
  • Submission: Submit your Github Gist/blog post link as a comment in its respective github issue in the quant-humanists-2019 repository. See NOTE below.

A1.3: Blog Post: Reflection

  • About: Write a short reflection about what your current relationship with self-tracking (e.g. hopes, dreams, perceptions), questions you have about self-tracking and how it could help or harm you, and how you hope the course will help facilitate your interests. Write about which questions you've identified to track, how you plan to track those variables of interest, and what challenges you expect to encounter as well as what you hope to learn.
  • Submission: Submit your Github Gist/blog post link as a comment in its respective github issue in the quant-humanists-2019 repository. See NOTE below.

NOTE: Please structure your blog post submissions according to the assignment template here: Quant Humanist - assignment template