In its’ essence, I like thought of open and direct data (sharing). With direct data, in mean the process of measuring data, processing the data, and directly visualizing or logging the data somewhere for yourself or/and for the public to see. In my opinion, direct data resonates with openness, transparency, and truthfulness. Secondly, with direct data, it is much easier to reflect on, and learn from your own data quickly. In the next chapters below I will fully describe what I envision, an what it will implicate.
Measuring direct data
The first important thing to discuss is; what do you plan to measure? I could go into four directions with this. The first one is physiological data; this would be heart rate, breathing, brainwaves etc. that could be measured 24/7. The second form would be physical data, data like this can be steps, sleep hours, exercise hours, standing, sitting, etc. The third one is subjective experiences/psychological data/emotions. With these measures I mean the measurements of stress, happiness, sadness, comfort, perceived health, etc. The last measure is situational data; meaning the location where you are. This can be very broad but also very precise. Some of this data is continuous while others are measured with intervals. Therefore, this data is less reliable and useful when sharing directly and openly.
Processing the data
To share data directly from a device to somewhere else, data should be retrieved, and processed directly. Currently, there are hardly any consumer devices that let you do that. That is a shame, working with an Arduino for example can make this possible. I also know that Android-wear is able to export heart rate data directly. For the subjective data, with Google-forms you can directly export data and use the data instantly through different platforms.
When looking at physiological data, visualizing the data isn’t something new. There are several “Bio-feedback” therapies that provide the user with direct feedback using visualization. Examples of these therapies are Heart rate variability-feedback, breathing-feedback, and Neurofeedback. Most of these therapies use sine-wave like patterns as feedback materials. But there are already therapies that use gamification as a mean to provide bio-feedback. Nevertheless, within therapies the user is expected to act upon physiological data. In my plan, measuring 24/7 shouldn’t require any direct action, but visualization is great. I imagine a ring (for example) where you directly see your heart rate bouncing with a subtle light or vibration. I believe this would be annoying or unpleasant at first, but you will adapt to it. You will learn from your body. When visualizing interval data other methods should be applied. In this setting, these variables are measured once, or a few times a day. Therefore, compared to physiological data, presentation of subjective data isn’t that accurate, because between the measurement periods the data might have changed. Nevertheless, day-to-day changes in data might be very interesting to learn from when it is presented with small intervals as well. With a personal dashboards or an app this data can be visualized, however more creative designs are not limited. Interactive colored t-shirts, pieces of art (displayed on a screen) are just a few examples.
Doing stuff like this has (immediate) consequences on your personal and work environment. Secondly, it might have effects on your health insurance bill. Thirdly, on your learning, and lastly on yourself. If this is adopted broadly between more people it has more impacting consequences but I won’t discuss these here.
Personal and work environment
Your direct environment knows exactly how you feel when talking to them or interacting with them. It depends on the type of visualization whether they see it directly but with a little effort, they know how much you enjoy them. It is a useful question for yourself to ask whether you would like this or not? Your answer will tell you more about good your relations are. In the same line, your employer has the same information which he might use. If you don’t engage to your work that much, you might not want to publicize it.
Your healthcare provider might want to use the data you share to adjust your insurance rate. First, healthcare providers should have access to the raw data and should be able to handle and interpret your data before they can change their policies. Secondly, many (thousands of) people should share their data with their healthcare provider before they are going to make personalized policies on it. In the Netherlands, I believe we have healthcare insurance companies with good intentions. I believe that if we have policy makers with good (if not the best) intentions, sharing data will benefit all of us, even when we are unhealthy. But the government should be included when making decisions on this. I don’t want to focus this blog on this issue, maybe I will do this another time.
Seeing your self/data continuously, might help you to recognize patterns in your behavior. Relations between variables might become visible with your data changing over time. This might lead to valuing some variables in your life more intensely, while you could also start to neglect several variables which seem to be less valuable than first reckoned. You learn about yourself, and your environment with your own data.
A potential changing environment, and a changing/developing you has consequences on you. Of course, I have no clue in your situation whether it will benefit or harm your life. Your interpretation of your own data does affect how you are handling your data and how you become influenced by it. Nevertheless, if things go wrong you can always stop sharing. But you can ask yourself the question; how would people respond if you suddenly stop sharing?