The Self, Media and Technology

Are you one of the millions of people worldwide who wear your fitness wristband tracker everywhere? Do you track your sleep, food intake or even how many times you go to the bathroom? The quantified self phenomenon is becoming more and more popular as our technology makes tracking almost anything possible. For some this can be fun way to learn more about ourselves or improve upon bad habits, while for others it can become a dangerous obsession.

 

There are becoming more and more ways to track different aspects of our lives. One person who has taken full advantage of this tracking technology is Chris Dancy, also known as “the most connected man in the world“.           

Dancy had always been interested in data collecting, he originally started keeping diaries and a catalog of his collectibles. On his personal website Dancy has put a clear time-line that shows exactly how his self data collecting progressed over the years and in 2008 Dancy decided to use his love of data collection to improve his lifestyle. By keeping track of his calorie intake, his workouts and many other aspects of his life, Dancy was able to lose 100 pounds (45kg), quit smoking and was the healthiest he had ever been.

Data tracking
Dancy’s self-tracking
He is able to track moods, why he wants certain things, and even keep track of his personality, he is able to understand so much more about himself than the average person ever could. “By 2014 my data stories were combinations of photos, sound, movies and data.

Through data collecting he was see clear patterns in his day and eventually began to work out exactly what could make a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ day and was able to make himself overall happier by cutting out behaviors that could be linked to the bad days and emotions. By spotting patterns in his day Dancy was also able to create many ‘life hacks’; things that many of us would find extremely helpful in everyday life.

 “Some of my earliest life hacks involved simple relationships between the environment and my behavior.  I learned, for example:

1. How late I could have a drink without getting up to pee in the middle of the night.

2. How what I did on social media, and how I spent my time online, related to how much I did or didn’t exercise.

3. How the nutritional value of my food stacked up against the money I spent on that food and the time it took to acquire.” 

Dancy created thousands of these life hacks and while at a glance this looks like an awesome way to improve his life,  it soon became an obsession. Dancy’s “life became a continuous feedback loop of condition and response” and every aspect of his life became controlled by data. He was originally able to learn more about himself from data but it was soon flipped around and the data was used to ‘improve’ and change Dancy, eventually leading to an obsession of controlling and improving all aspects of his life.

 

Screenshot_1_19_16__4_52_PM
Dancy’s tracking calendar

 

The ‘Mashable’ article makes it sound like Dancy is living the dream; he became healthier, he’s leading the way in self data collection and has more control than ever over his life. However everything is not as perfect as it seems, during an episode of Dark Net Dancy opened up about how his obsession with data collecting has made it difficult for him to maintain relationships, seeing people as groups of numbers and data rather the complex individuals that humans are. On his personal website Dancy also speaks of some of the negative effects his obsessive data collection, one example is what he refers to as data PTSD;

 “In 2016, I find that I experience a sort of “data PTSD” about the period from 2011 – 2014. I can only recall those years by looking them up in my archives and trying to understand who I was and how I was reacting.”

Viewing life through data and numbers can start to have an effect on the individual, data can become an obsession and it starts to become all that matters and the only thing the person can see. As shown above, Dancy does not recall the same way as many of us, while you and I may reflect upon the past by recalling certain events or people, Dancy is only able to recall by looking over his data and seeing in numbers who he was at that time.
Dancy accepts and speaks openly about both the positives and negatives of data collection. Through self data collection he is able to learn more about himself and believes that it can inspire positive change in people, however he does admit that this can lead to many different issues in life, some which are stated above. The amount of data Dancy collects in 2016 is almost incomprehensible and you can view some of this current data here.
While technology continues to evolve self data collection will become easier and practically anything will be able to collected and recored, we are already seeing this as a recent trend with things such as the fitness wristband tracker becoming increasingly popular. People will have to decide for themselves if this is something they want to partake in and whether it will have a positive or negative effect on their lives.
References:
Dancy, C. (2016). [online] Chris Dancy. Available at: http://www.chrisdancy.com/ [Accessed 9 March. 2017].
Murphy Kelly, S. (2014). Meet the ‘Most Connected Man’ in the World. [Blog] Mashable Australia. Available at: http://mashable.com/2014/03/13/most-connected-man-in-world-chris-dancy/#8cENG0T10mqV [Accessed 10 March. 2017].
Dark Net Episode 2. (2016). United States of America: Showtime
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