Quantified Self

The Quantified Self is a collaboration of users and tool makers that I started with my friend and colleague Kevin Kelly. There is a group blog and a regular “show&tell” meetup in several cities. (I am also working on a book about the Quantified Self.) Here is some background on how this all got started.

During some conversations in the summer of 2007, Kevin and I discussed the implications of a range of new tools that were making self-tracking easier. In the past, the methods of quantitative assessment were laborious and arcane. You had to take measurements manually and record them in a log; you had to enter data into spreadsheets and perform operations using unfriendly software; you had to build graphs to tease understanding out of the numbers. Now much of the data-gathering can be automated, and the record-keeping and analysis can be delegated to a host of simple Web apps. The makes it possible to know oneself in a new way. Our blog and MeetUp don’t really have a slogan, but if they did it would probably be “Self-knowledge through numbers.”

Another way of thinking about this is that The Quantified Self is the macroscope applied to the individual human. This might seem like a contradiction: how does a tool for collecting data  from many different times and places in nature work on a single individual? The answer, of course, is that an individual life can be seen as a collection of countless moments, behaviors, and locations. Within the “n=1” of the individual is an “n=∞” of times, actions, and places.

We call our regular meetings “The Quantified Self Show&Tell” because we use the classic show&tell format we’ve all known since first grade. People involved in self-tracking projects come and share what they are doing, describe their conclusions, take questions, and ask for help. We’ve seen talks about correlating DHA with cognition, caffeine consumption with concentration, and sleep with diet Pepsi consumption, among many others. The group includes scientists, software developers, health care folks, academics, artists and – most importantly – lots of individual hobbyists and pioneers. It is an open group: if you’d like to join us for a Bay Area meeting, see the Bay Area Quantified Self MeetUp page. There is also a New York City Quantified Self MeetUp, organized by Steve Dean.

If you would like to try hosting a QS Show&Tell of your own, don’t hesitate. You don’t need to ask permission, but if you let us know we will post an announcement on the blog.