Everything you never wanted to know about yourself

Now that we are telling computers just about everything we do every waking moment, how will our lives be affected? What kinds of behaviors, if any, will change as a result of knowing where I have been at every moment last year? We can gain crazy insight into our behavior if we feed the machines enough data. That feeding process is getting easier and easier with every digital innovation that gets churned out.

We will not change all that much. We may be able to find friends a little better, but we will not change our behaviors and we certainly will not change our personalities. Shoes don’t stretch and men don’t change. When someone gives us an insight about ourselves we often try to make it work. That process of thinking “yeah, that’s about right” is more common than “oh my gosh! I’ve got to change… and then actually stick to it.”

Capture your mouse movements as modern art
This experiment turns your behavior into art. Even if we don’t change our mouse moving behavior, it is nice to know we can decorate the living room. These will also be a great historical document when we don’t use mouses (mice?) anymore in the future.

One possible driver of change is recognizing personal habits we are easily able to affect. Like reading more or going to more concerts. Here is Nicholas Feltron’s take on whether his behavior has changed from the mounds of data he has collected about his personal behavior:

“It would be hard for me to say ‘yes’ definitively, as I have no experimental control to compare with. But I do take some of the totals to heart and try to adjust my behavior accordingly. In 2007, I hardly went to any concerts, and managed to make some gains there in 2008. Last year, I read embarrassingly little, and while this year is not off to a good start yet, I am hoping to get out of the office a bit more and into some books.”

Feltron Report is an amazing piece of art, but I wonder if the insights or pattern recognition has changed his behavior. It certainly has justified what appears to be a slightly compulsive penchant for collecting self data. But perhaps this is our future. Perhaps there will be enough tools to feed the machines to create our own Feltron reports without even feeling the pain of collecting the mounds of data.

This report highlights an important aspect of all of this data collection – the interpretation of the data. Collecting data is one thing, but creating a narrative based on it is another. The movement toward democratization of data sources and experimentation (see ManyEyes and Tableau Public) by many humans across the globe is where the true insights are gained.

I’m game though. I’m going to give one of the ‘insight’ solutions a shot. I will make an effort to utilize YourFlowingData for the duration of my ‘60 in 60‘-athon. I will post what I’ve learned and whether or not the insights have changed any of my behaviors.

Here is a wordle of my first 20 posts. I guess I am in search of solutions… or I think I have them (i don’t think that). But I do ‘like’ ‘solutions’. especially ‘digital’ ones. Just interesting at this point. Maybe some nice wall art.


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