The past week has been an especially pleasant one. Not just because the frenzied annual ritual of CHI paper writing has passed, but on the very same Friday night, I had my first journal article published online!
You can find the article – “A Quantified Past: Towards Design for Remembering with Personal Informatics” – published in ‘Human-Computer Interaction’ with Taylor and Francis. Unfortunately it’s not open access, but if you would like to read it but can’t, then please do drop me an email. It should hopefully be in print before the end of the year.
It is a rather long article, describing fieldwork from the 1st year of my PhD, interviewing people with long histories of self-tracking data, from exercise data, to Last.Fm statistics, and money-tracking apps. It essentially lays the groundwork for my thesis and subsequent research, and introduces our concept of a ‘Quantified Past’.
I’ll write more about this article in the future, in the meantime, here’s the published abstract:
This paper questions how people will interact with a ‘Quantified Past’—the growing historical record generated by the increasing use of sensor-based technologies and in particular, personal informatics tools. In a qualitative study, we interviewed 15 long-term users of different self-tracking tools about how they encountered, and made meaning from historical data they had collected. Our findings highlight that even if few people are self-tracking as a form of deliberate lifelogging, many of them generate data and records that become meaningful digital possessions. These records are revealing of many aspects of people’s lives. Through considerable rhetorical data-work, people can appropriate such records to form highly personal accounts of their pasts. We use our findings to identify six characteristics of a quantified past and map an emerging design space for the long-term and retrospective use of personal informatics. Principally, we propose that design should seek to support people in making account of their data, and guard against the assumption that more, or ‘better’, data will be able to do this for them. To this end, we speculate on design opportunities and challenges for experiencing, curating and sharing historical personal data in new ways.