Number of steps, heart rate, respiratory rate, blood oxygen saturation, what’s with the recent interest and craze in all these vital signs, you may ask. While the idea of such personal tracking is not new, it has been popularised with the introduction of a myriad of fitness trackers, especially now so with the Apple watch. Personal tracking is more commonly known as the quantified self movement that was founded in 2007 by Garry Wolf and Kevin Kelly of Wired magazine. This movement was thought of to be a “window” into an individual’s activities, and the types of reflection, learning and personal insights that one could get from the data. For individuals, the quantified self movement then encourages healthy habitual practices and for learning more about their own bodies. And these biocitizens can then help propel the future of healthcare that will benefit generations ahead.
Encouraging Healthy Habitual Practices
First and foremost, the quantified self movement appears to have started from the need to cultivate a particular habit. Such tracking can lead to mindfulness and awareness, to introduce purpose and intention into everyday actions. The idea is for the individual to be mindful of what he is doing as he is doing it. For instance, while he walking on a beautiful day, he would actually appreciate the fact that he is walking, and actually know that he is walking while tracking the number of steps he is taking. By making the conscious effort to keep track of the statistics, it will be more likely that the individual inculcates a practice that either drives up or maintains the figures across a period of time.
Learning about the Body
Activity tracking makes use of things in the world, fitness trackers, reminders and the like, to create thoughts and ideas to be reflected upon to better understand what is going on in the body. Learn what is happening to the body and not put too much focus on the commonly accepted norms of what is and isn’t “healthy” or “fit” or “beautiful”. Quantified self evangelists tend not only to be sceptical about “healthiness”, but instead focus largely on listening to the body, understanding data retrieved and devising responses to both the data and the body.
Automatic Collection of Data for Medical Research
In collecting data for tracking purposes, individuals can become involved in crowdsourcing by becoming a participatory biocitizen. While the idea of preventive medicine and healthcare is not a new concept, the idea has not been fully integrated among the masses. In the era of big health data, participatory health initiatives and philosophical shifts in mindset, can take part in a collective effort with individuals all around the world to improve, normalise and extend the life expectancy of people. Also, in the near future, it is believed that mental performance would evolve as a new health frontier, an important component to the notion of overall health. And information about an individual’s well-being now, can serve as a stepping stone towards improving the physical and emotional well-being for generations ahead.
As the quantified self movement gains traction, with people becoming more empowered to take charge of the own well-being, physically and mentally, fitness trackers play a major role in encouraging positive changes in individuals and laying the groundwork for the future of healthcare that will benefit future generations. Will you take steps to become a quantified self?
Nafus, D., & Sherman, J. (2014). Big Data, Big Questions| This One Does Not Go Up To 11: The Quantified Self Movement as an Alternative Big Data Practice. International Journal of Communication, 8, 11.
Swan, M. (2012). Health 2050: the realization of personalized medicine through crowdsourcing, the Quantified Self, and the participatory biocitizen. Journal of personalized medicine, 2(3), 93-118.
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