You. Visualized. 02.20.2009
Let me state, up front, that I am not really sure where I am going with this post. This is just a general observation I have noticed lately. Something that peaks my interest. I am sure that this is, in large part, driven by my recent attempts to actively exercise my visual thinking.
As we continue to share information about ourselves on the web, the things we can do with that data and the cool ways we can visualize it, becomes really compelling. Here are just a few examples I have come across:
FitBit is a product and service that is not yet released but I am really looking forward to it. The product is a wearable Tracker with a motion sensor that senses your motion in three dimensions, converts this into information about your daily activities, wirelessly transmits it to a base station attached to your computer and then uploads it to a web app which tracks and visualizes this data. It can measure the intensity and duration of your physical activities, calories burned, steps taken, distance traveled, how long it took you to fall asleep, the number of times you woke up throughout the night and how long you were actually asleep vs just lying in bed. This is not to be confused with a simple step counter or a more advanced tracker for runners. This is designed for regular people with regular activity levels to be more conscious of your health.
If you are seeking a bit more of a manual and ad-hoc way to quantify your life data, give Daytum a try. Inspired by the Feltron Annual Report, Daytum is a way to take all of the mundane data sets of your life – How many pizzas your have eaten, length in miles of hot dogs consumed, plants watered vs. plants killed – you can create virtually any type of data set you can think of and easily track and quantify it.
Dopplr is a social network for travelers. Not only does it allow you to keep details about your own past and upcoming trips, it also allows you to share this information with friends and followers. This year, they introduced the Personal Annual Report which visualizes your travel data. You can see what your personal velocity was compared to a giant tortoise, compare the miles you traveled to the distance to the moon, even see what your carbon footprint is in “Hummers”.
What does this all mean? I’m not really sure. I just think it is cool. I do think that the information age continues to give us ways to quantify, share and visualize vast amounts of personal data about ourselves. The possibilities of this are as compelling as the privacy concerns are frightening.
With that said, I think that simple knowledge often gives you all the tools you need to make modest changes. How will knowing that you are not that active cause you to be conscious of being more so? Will a tool that allows you to quantify how much Diet Coke you consume cause you to drink less? How will knowing that the trip you want to take will increase your carbon footprint by two Hummers affect your travel plans? Perhaps it wont but at least you will have the data at your disposal to help with the decision.