Back with a ‘big data’ bang

By Richard Copland.

It’s good to be back, I’ve certainly been away for too long. In keeping with many I’m sure the early part of January is filled with folks kick-starting their commentaries and blogs as they are spurred on by the influx of resolutions.

I hope the holidays treated you well, which for me was spent with family, getting the compulsory James Bond movie fill and introducing my mum to the world of Fitbit and the concept of the quantified self.  This is the phenomena that has arisen from the access to the deluge of data and the need to record everything we do, to measure obsessively analysing our ‘quantified selves’.

With her new flex she can monitor the distance she walks and the calories burned. At night it monitors your sleep cycle, as well as waking you in the morning. This new generation of devices allows you to compare your progress in relation to objectives and others so that you are really living your life as a quantified being.  What fascinated me was how quickly someone arguably of a non-tech generation, became engaged with her metrics.

Big bang data

Over the holiday break I also had the opportunity to go to Somerset House in London to see the UK’s first major exhibition Big Bang Data exploring the big data explosion that’s radically transforming our society, culture and politics.

The exhibition was an awesome, refreshing insight on many of the issues datafication of our world through the work of artists, designers, journalists and visionaries.  As the data explosion accelerates, it asks if we really understand our relationship with data, and explores the meaning and implication of data for our future.  Don’t be surprised if I refer back to this investigation in the future.

We are all Nicholas Felton now – the Personal Information Economy.

So how does this relate to Mum and her Fitbit? At the exhibition you learn about Nicholas Felton, who every year since 2005 has produced a report on himself and his life. The various bits of information are gathered together to form a database of his personality, habits and relationships. When this data is combined and visualised, what may seem like inconsequential details aggregate into a discernible narrative.  Back in 2005, it be fair to say his sanity was questioned, but looking at one of his visualisations now we can see the DNA of many a customer dashboard.

Nicholas Felton Visualisation

Technology has become so prevalent in our lives that it now has a profound affect on our sense of wellbeing and ‘self’.  The Wellbeing Revolution is about empowering people to learn about themselves, for the benefit of their looks, their health and their general wellbeing.  It’s about the increasing use of science and technology to create confidence through knowledge facilitating the emergence of the Personal Information Economy.  As with equivalent new sectors, this journey has not created a one size fits all offering but as created sub categories along the way, where healthy living has become a manifestation of our self-identity with all its accompanying offerings.

Who are the players that can help digest this daily influx of data into something tangible, actionable an intrinsically linked to your world? I’m fairly confident we’ll see quantified self spin-outs as the likes of my and her community are more personally catered for.