Everyone had a story at the Quantified Self Labs Conference and Expo in San Fransisco. One QS speaker delivered a narrative about tracking her emergent love for her current husband, or another shared how the weight of his beard whiskers over time became indicators of higher or lower testosterone, and how those moments correlated with certain emotional states. The hardware collecting these stories came in all sorts of forms, and were mostly combinations of DIY, experimental, and commercial.
The Quantified Self Labs was founded by Gary Wolf and Kevin Kelly as a means to serve the quantified self community. Reaffirming the importance of their work, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a large funder of the effort, has positioned the QS movement as a fundamental element in their conversations around the “Culture of Health.” Indeed, the QS landscape has evolved into an inclusive and critical discussion, one that centralizes concepts of what it means to democratize access to and production of data.
As a result, the QS community is helping to nudge health care out of paternalistic dynamics. With improved access to producing and reviewing their own data, people are better able to co-operate their health with their health care team. Researchers are also recipients of bigger and more diverse data sets.
How does access get us from the individual to the whole?
At the QS conference there were terms tossed around like “data narcism” or “mothering” or “dumbing down” to describe the affects of our growing obsession with data production and decision automation. And perhaps there is some truth to this. Certainly, there is a shared motivation for more efficient and effective self-improvement. However, to end at the n of 1, or at the individual level? There are bigger things in mind. Though the tagline to QS Labs is “Self knowledge through numbers” there is a clear though bumpy line that can be drawn from the individual to the whole.
The Scanadu Scout, a device that measures an individual’s temperature, heart-rate, and blood pressure, has delivered 8,000 devices to its record-breaking Indiegogo purchasers. At the QS conference, Scanadu displayed the real-time recording of billions of personal data points produced and being collected by those individuals across the world. The results of the data points were immediately calculated to show median heart-rates and temperatures across different geographic locations. All of which is unprecedented information.
“We are building our products to create connection with people you care about. Our company is about developing technology for the circle of care,” says Scanadu Co-Founder Sam de Brouwer.
Scanadu is but one continuous monitoring technology that creates connection as well as better insight.
It will be interesting to see how continuous monitoring re-positions what we have traditionally deemed as “normal” and “abnormal,” a metric that has been standardized more by episodic measurements rather than ongoing metrics. To this end, the Quantified Self Labs community is at the helm. And because of this we are changing how we remember and tell stories, how we detect or prevent diseases, and how we care for and understand our self and others.