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2 April 2012 / erikduval

Quantified self in Leuven

Last Tuesday, Leuven.Inc organized an event on ‘The next mobile experience‘, where I had the honor and pleasure to present some of our work on ‘quantified self‘.

I learned some interesting things from Rudy’s presentation on next-generation mobile hardware: apparently, the expectation is that by 2028, we will be able to record all of our life on 3D HDTV on a mobile device! As I tweeted, I can hardly wait… David showed some nice examples of novel user experiences on a mobile…

And I talked about quantified self, with of course plenty of references to our learning analytics work… As often, questions from the audience related to how one makes sense of the data deluge (dashboards! information visualization!) and privacy (in the news all the time – my answer: openness and transparency).
In fact, with these questions, I often feel torn between two sides: I do understand that this kind of tracking can be dangerous in for instance totalitarian regimes, I do understand that we do not always measure what is important, I do understand that not everybody wants to be ‘on’ all the time, etc.
Yet, on the other hand, I also think that the potential is huge, that quantified self techniques help you to have more rather than less control over your life, and that most people seem to terribly underestimate how much they are being tracked already anyway.
I guess one of the reasons why I do so many talks on learning analytics these days (the next one is tomorrow…) is to clarify some misunderstandings and to help both my audience and myself think through the implications.
Maybe you want to engage in that dialogue too? I’d be happy to hear from you…


Leave a Comment
  1. Marijne / Apr 5 2012 11:45 am

    Very interesting subject.

    “Yet (…) I also think (…) help you to have more rather than less control over your life (…).

    My first reactie would be: I think control over your life is nothing but an illusion, it gives you the impression to have control over it. This might have a calming effect in the first place, but in the end it could be more stressfull when having the idea to loose control.
    Quantifying of the Self is in my opinion a reproduction of the Self in a way that suits one’s interest, so that is not nescessarily corresponding with reality. It is more a quasi-rational approach of one’s identity.

    • erikduval / Apr 5 2012 12:37 pm

      But what does that mean? That you relinquish all control over your life?

  2. Marijne / Apr 5 2012 7:22 pm

    The measured data always needs to be compared to other data to make a statement out of it. So that means that quantative data can be a tool indeed, especially when a large group of people use it to compare each others data. But this starting point is a fixed point that in my opinion is always paradigmatic.I think it is important to be aware of this principle and always concider what the data really measures, compared to what it implies.

  3. erikduval / Apr 5 2012 10:15 pm

    Thanks for the follow-up!

    Now, let’s say that I want to measure that I learn 5 words of Italian every day. Why would that ‘need to be compared to other data to make a statement out of it’?

    And I’m not sure I understand what ‘paradigmatic’ means in this context…

    Appreciate the feedback though…

  4. Marijne / Apr 5 2012 11:02 pm

    Thanks for your (good) questions. Nice example, also. I’d say that to measure if you have learned these 5 italian words is to compare this with other data, to decide if you really know the words. That means that there is given a correct way of pronouncing or writing the words. But, obviously, that is a cultural/linguistic agreement on the correct pronouncement and writing. And that is the “fixed point” I was talking about in my earlier comment.
    Paradigmatic in this context is that there are correct or false answers in performing italian language. Also what does it imply to know that you have learned 5 italian words everyday? To make progress? To have learned more italian words than your neighbour has? To see how many italian words you have to go before you can order an espresso in a bar properly? In other words: what would you want to measure it for in the first place?
    Your example shows very well how we’d like to arrange the world into lumps or data that we can interpretate in our (linguistic) way : we want to make sense of it.
    But maybe you’ll have another example that will make this comment irrelevant or obsolete…? (I hope so!)

  5. erikduval / Apr 6 2012 10:15 am

    This are interesting observations, … but it seems to me they apply to everything you do in life. As such, they have in my view little to do with the topic of learning analytics as such. One could make similar comments about the act of making comments on a blog post, no? There is ‘a cultural/linguistic agreement on the correct’ way to do blog comments? And what does it imply to make a blog comment? To make progress? To have made more blog comments than your neighbour has? 😉

  6. jonas / Apr 6 2012 5:04 pm

    Hi Erik Duval,

    I met you at this event and you mentioned some interesting programs about who follows what online and time managing tools.Ofcourse i don’t remember any name. Where can i find more about this ?!

    • erikduval / Apr 11 2012 1:12 am

      You will find plenty of references in my slides – wakoopa, rescuetime, toggl are a few that come immediately to my mind.

      Would be interested in your experiences if you start experimenting in this area!

      • Jonas / Apr 11 2012 11:46 am

        I am already experimenting a bit in this field since your talk.
        I used to be really skeptic and harsh about this kind of things but you made a very convincing point. I do somehow still fear it is going to come back to haunt me someday.

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