Personal Data Tracking

25 Apr

Central to the readings and the lecture this week was assemblages of data and media (the word for the week was data). Both Quilty-Harper and Wolf make continual reference to the personal being the final frontier in terms of the seeking and interpretation of data. This includes everyday activities such as diet, exercise, sleep, mood, location, alertness and productivity. I found this highly interesting when engaging with this week’s readings. It brought to mind my utilization of the smartphone application and personal data-processing platform ‘Map My Run’ and its significance in altering my approach to fitness improvement.

The Map My Run website highlights that the app is “a fitness tracking application that enables you to use the built-in GPS of your mobile device to track all of your fitness activities. Record your workout details, including duration, distance, pace, speed, elevation, calories burned, and route traveled on an interactive map. You can even effortlessly save and upload your workout data to MapMyRun where you can view your route workout data, and comprehensive workout history”. (here is a link to the website: ). As well as this, the app allows you to share your personal data with other users so that they are able to measure their personal fitness data against yours. Wolf highlights that in terms of the development of personal data tracking “first, electronic sensors got smaller and better. Second, people started carrying powerful computing devices, typically disguised as mobile phones. Third, social media made it seem normal to share everything” and all these factors can are evident within the development of the ‘Map My Run’ application.

Through the utilization of this application I have been able to progressively improve my personal fitness levels in ways that have only been possible because of my access to specific data, which only a few years ago would have been either extremely difficult or highly costly to retrieve. Wolf highlights that personal data trackers take up tracking with a ‘specific goal in mind’ and he states that “they continue because they believe their numbers hold information that they can’t afford to ignore” and this is significant in considering my personal data tracking. Essentially, with access to this data I no longer am just ‘going for a run’. Instead I am exercising efficiently, making sure that I am reaching my full potential in terms of my age, height, weight etc.

It’s fair to note that some people might consider the access to such personal-data as hazardous. Access to this type of personal-data may lead to significant amounts of unnecessary concern or obsessiveness amongst individuals. An example of this can be seen in the utilization of recently developed newborn breathing monitors. These devices allow parents to record the breathing patterns of newborn babies with the intention of ensuring that they are healthy. However doctors have encouraged parents to stay away from these devices due to the fact that lapses in the breathing of new-born babies is quite normal and would go unnoticed if this personal-data collection was not occurring. However in terms of achieving personal goals of any kind I feel that personal data collection and interpretation is extremely effective.



Quilty-Harper, Conrad (2010) ’10 ways data is changing how we live’, The Telegraph, August 25, < >

Wolf, Gary (2010) ‘The Data-Driven Life’, The New York Times, <>


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