Week 4: track some personal data

“Rachel Kalmar’s datapunk quantified self sensor array 1, Institute for the Future, Palo Alto, California, USA” by gruntzooki is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

The core focus of this week is to continue to engage with the block 1 readings, and to produce your weekly data visualisation.

However, there is also an additional (and non-assessed) activity for you to try this week, that will hopefully introduce you to some interesting self-tracking services, and help you to think some more about the ideas and concepts we are examining in relation to data and the theme of learning. The ‘extension task’ this week is: ‘track some personal data’. In many ways, your ongoing ‘hand draw visualisations’ are already tasking you with tracking some personal data, so this task isn’t substantially different. However, primarily, it is a chance to experiment with some ‘digital’ means of self-tracking, by trying out a few free software services that allow you to track various aspects of your daily routines. In a broad sense, this activity will allow you to compare your hand drawn, ‘analogue’ data visualisation procedures with some more automated techniques, hopefully highlighting differences in the extent to which you have agency over the decision-making process.

To underpin and provide some educational context for this task, we have an additional reading:

Eynon, R. 2015. The quantified self for learning: critical questions for education, Learning, Media and Technology, 40:4, pp.407-411, DOI: 10.1080/17439884.2015.1100797

This brief editorial provides an overview of the implications of ideas associated with the ‘quantified self’ for education, calling for caution in the adoption of such practices, and attention to broader philosophical reflection on the repercussions of self-tracking, beyond questions about the practicality of implementation. Eynon highlights important critical points about the ways particular measures might become privileged indicators of ‘learning’, as well as the impact on an individual’s understanding of their learning experiences.

Below are some suggestions for free software to try, but you are welcome to use any others that you already have experience with, or that you discover elsewhere. A few notes of caution here: this kind of software will almost certainly record your personal data in some way, and data privacy practices will vary considerably depending on the service you choose. As above, this task is entirely optional, and you are not required to self-track in this way unless you choose to. If you do, think carefully about the kind of data you record, how it might be shared, and who with – checking terms and conditions is recommended. Further, the suggestions below are ‘free’ services or have ‘free’ trial periods – you are not required to purchase any software for this voluntary task. Make sure that you choose the free options where prompted.

Time/task tracking:
Rescue Time
Toggl track

Food (and other fitness) tracking

Your key tasks this week will be to:

  • Continue reading the core and secondary literature for this block
  • Produce your weekly data visualisation
  • Try some personal tracking, and post some reflections on the experience to your blog