In today’s technological driven society, we can see a growing trend in individuals beginning to take control of an aspect of their lives in which conventional wisdom once informed us that we shouldn’t understand….our own health.
Why am I so tired all the time? How much exercise should I do daily? What are the healthiest food options? Today we ask our doctors these questions. Tomorrow we ask our data (Moschel, M 2015).
This growing phenomenon can better be described as ‘The Quantified Self’. This term can be explained as being the increase use in technologies to track and monitor data about oneself. In short it is the growth in self-knowledge through self-tracking (Moschel, M 2015). This trend is being driven by the innovation of mobile devices, and is becoming more widely available through the dramatic improvements in data storage and data processing.
We can see a range of biometric sensory devices such as the Fitbit, Zeo Sleep Coach and the Nike+ making their way into consumers homes, allowing for these individuals to track everything from their total activity, number of steps, food they eat, sleeping patterns and heart rate on a daily basis.
This movement of the quantified self allows individual’s to take health into their own hands, tracking a variety of aspects in their day-to-day routines in which they wish to monitor and improve. Being presented these data visuals allows for these users to learn about their own health and lifestyle. With this bit of knowledge gained, they are able to reflect and make positive changes to improve these data figures.
The process of self-tracking is perceived as a positive, personal process that one can embark on. However most individuals would not realise the negatives that are following this growing trend. With the ease and accessibility to quantify data growing exponentially, so too is the reliance on these numbers. Users of these devices are now are becoming so absorbed with eating a certain amount of calories, or walking a number of steps that soon enough, people will equate every bit of self worth down to these data variables, resulting in feelings of failure and self hatred once these expectations are not met (Lupton, D 2013).
Another potential issue for the quantified self is the involvement it has with Big Data. This term big data is surrounded by the idea that all things offline will gradually, and eventually, be fully connected to the Internet, such that there would ‘no longer be any human or social activity that is beyond digital capture’ (Sampath, G 2015). Owners of these biometric sensory devices are within this digital capture, which holds a major security and privacy threat with all their confidential human activity being captured and stored by large corporations. All these streams of data could potentially be harnessed by a number of industries such as the insurance industry that could exploit individuals based on their data figures from their smart devices.
The quantified self-movement has none the less been a major turning point for a lot of individual’s health, allowing for self-improvement and self-knowledge. However I believe that a reliance on these data figures can result in a lack of trust in ones self worth. I also feel that users should be wary of whose hands these data variables are entering, and should understand the potential exploitation risks of this data by industries.
Moschel, M 2015, ‘THE BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO QUANTIFIED SELF’, Health and Technology Blog, March 9,
< https://blog.underarmour.com/devices/activity-trackers/the-beginners-guide-to-quantified-self-plus-a-list-of-the-best-personal-data-tools-out-there/ >
Lupton, D 2013, ‘Living the quantified self: the realities of self-tracking for health’, This Sociological Life, January 11, blog,
< https://simplysociology.wordpress.com/2013/01/11/living-the-quantified-self-the-realities-of-self-tracking-for-health/ >
Wolf, G 2010, ‘The Quantified Self’, TED,
Sampath, G 2015, ‘Does the Internet of Things herald an era of digital feudalism?’, livemint,
< http://www.livemint.com/Opinion/zy9mGHaOAnugUTuCKysGqM/Does-the-Internet-of-Things-herald-an-era-of-digital-feudali.html >