A Quantified Past

This project studied the current historical records being created by individuals use of 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 looking back at data they had collected. Though 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 as lived and can be appropriated to form highly personal accounts of their pasts.

This study helped us 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 proposed 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.

This work has been published in the Human-Computer Interaction journal – (pdf).

Chris Elsden, David Kirk, Abigail Durrant

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