Quantified Self vs. Sedative Lifestyle

Quantified Self vs. Sedative Lifestyle


Life is undoubtedly getting better in many ways thanks to technology and economic development. However, what we associate with “progress” often makes us more distracted and dependent. The trend is to select the default option, go with the flow and seek more convenience, e.g. the elevator apartment, getting food delivery, the new home entertainment system – all of which takes away from our ability to move, cook, learn, communicate or entertain ourselves (or be entertaining). It is a slow, invisible process of self-disablement that not only degrades essential life skills, but also reduces opportunities of self-expression and social interaction. When convenience is the goal, distraction is the result. We all feel it: there is this nagging emptiness that we can’t quite define. Personal Analytics helped me discover and get to the bottom of this after I recorded my personal habits, mood and objectives on a daily basis over an extended period of time (see also: Quantified Self). Quantifying my well-being helped me see invisible patterns in my life, most importantly I saw what worked for me and what didn’t – and I could prove it with numbers. I found that the key to doing better is to do less, re-introduce discipline, spend time with loved ones, seek an active lifestyle and remove distractions. That’s my personal formula – yours may be different. I truly believe that if we all had the tools to find out what really works for us (and what doesn’t) we’d have more empowered lives.

This is guest post from Stefan Heeke, founder of the unchained lifestyle movement. Stefan is a data analyst that applies his analytical skills to self improvement. I am always happy to meet Stefan at one of the Quantified Self events all over the world and highly recommend  visiting his blog unchainyourlifestyle.

International Quantified Self Culture in Berlin

Along with several co-organizers, I founded the English-speaking Berlin Quantified Self Meetup Group this October 17th. With this group, we want to organize meet-ups at the same level as other European metropolises in the future. The first meeting of our new Berlin group will take place on the 22nd of November. Amongst the speakers, there will be two well-known people from the Quantified Self scene. Steven Dean is a designer, a lecturer at the New York University and an entrepreneur in the digital health sector. In addition, Dean is a partner of the incubator PREHYPE and the organizer of the New York QS group. At the Berlin meet-up, Dean will give a keynote speech about the history and background of Quantified Self and will report how he used self-tracking to help prepare himself for an Iron Man competition.

Steven Dean at the Quantified Self Europe Conference 2011 (cc by Rain Rabbit)

Denis Harscoat is the founder of the start-up company DidThis and a co-organizer of the Paris and London QS groups. He is particularly interested in habits and the regular practice of the behavior necessary to achieve mastery in a certain field. At the Berlin meeting, Harscoat will be talking about self-tracking behavior, the “programmable self” and how self-tracking keeps him motivated to change his lifestyle. Aside from the international guest speakers, the Berlin scene will also get their chance to speak up. Peter Lewis is one of the co-organizers of the new Berlin Quantified-Self group und a developer of educational apps designed after the “spaced repetition” principle (SRS). This method takes account of the human memory retention, thus helping to optimize efficiency in learning new contents. At the new group’s meet-up, Lewis will be talking about various SRS algorithms, their potential for future applications and his personal experience in learning new things with this method. Next to these contributions, the developers of self-tracking applications will also present their position towards personal data, self-awareness and behavioral changing. After the presentations, there will be a demo-hour, in which the visitors will be able to collect information about Berlin start-ups from the QS-scene. All self-trackers, those interested to learn more about QS and press representatives are warmly welcomed to join us at the meet-up on November 22nd. You can find more information about the new group and about the event here. If you are planning a trip to Berlin and would like to present a Show&Tell at one of our future meetups, please contact us. We are looking forward to welcoming further international speakers.

The MEDlove 2012 Conference in Berlin

On November 23rd, a number of creative and healthcare professionals met in Berlin for the MEDlove. This conference, which took place this year for the very first time, placed its emphasis on usability and service design in health care, thereby offering an interesting perspective. Tastefully housed in the Friedrichstrasse Auditorium, the MEDlove offered a coherent mix of presentations and networking. The program was opened by Steve Dean from New York, an entrepreneur and lecturer at the NY University. True to the theme of “sense and sense-making”, he spoke about the importance of patient data and how service design can improve health care. Dean, who is the leader of the New York Quantified Self group, also depicted the potential of new consumer solutions such as pedometers and other networked sensors for a healthier lifestyle – a topic which was mentioned often throughout the conference.

MEDlove 2012
copyright by malteprien.com

My personal highlight of the conference was Mark A. M. Kramer’s presentation “Developing Participatory Design Strategies for ePatients”. Kramer talked about processes in hospitals and conveyed the technology situation in German and American clinics. Pictures of seemingly outdated technology and communication devices that are far-flung from the solutions used on a daily basis in private life made apparent the sort of potential for innovation that can still be tapped into there. When Kramer mentioned that these observations had been made during his own cancer treatment, the atmosphere in the room clouded and reminded me and many others present of why we were at the MEDlove – The impending revolution in the healthcare system is about competition between contesting interests where significant improvements can only be achieved by innovators with strong personal convictions.

MEDlove 2012
copyright by malteprien.com

This awareness gave the talks at the MEDlove something very pleasant and grounded, so that I enjoyed networking late into the night as I seldom had at previous conferences. With its content orientation, its excellent provisions and its relaxed timing of the conference program, the MEDlove was a real highlight for me, and I am already looking forward to visiting it again next year. I congratulate the organizer for this innovative and coherent concept, and I wish him all the best for the future MEDloves.

The Health 2.0 Europe Conference in Berlin

On the 6th and 7th of November, the Health 2.0 Europe took place in Berlin. At the conference, which took place in Berlin for the second time, about 200 entrepreneurs, investors and experts met for discussion panels with various focal points revolving around digital technologies in healthcare. Already in the days leading up the two-day conference, several additional Health 2.0 events took place. On the 3rd and 4th of November, for example, a number of developers, designers and entrepreneurs took part in the Code-a-thon, which was endowed with a prize money of ten thousand Euro. For this competition, seven teams developed apps and services for the Health 2.0 sector, and in the end, the smartphone app “Jog-War” emerged as the winner with an interesting game mechanism. In the GPS-based game solution developed by a four-person international team, the athlete marks a virtual territory by running and has to defend it against other joggers.

Health 2.0 Europe 2012
The Health 2.0 panels covered such topics ranging from open data and the financing of Health 2.0 technologies to gamification and wellness. For each main subject, solutions from various companies were presented and their specific trends and challenges were examined. From a technological standpoint, according to one of the speakers, healthcare has a ten-year lag behind other sectors. In this context, it was unanimously agreed that the main lesson learned from other European projects was that progress in using digital solutions required absolute transparency and had to be demanded by patients. In other areas of the system there were simply not enough incentives, so that the potential of digital solutions in improving medical care could only be realized through civil participation. This premise was impressively demonstrated by the start-up MySugr, which presented a smartphone app for measuring blood-sugar levels. The founders and employees of the young business are themselves diabetic, and have to record their blood-sugar levels up to eight times a day. That’s why the game mechanics integrated into the app help make the regular logging of blood-sugar levels, a necessity due to illness, as easy and pleasant as possible. The founder of the Viennese business clearly demonstrated how technological progress driven from the bottom up can lead to a better quality of life for patients. On top of that, numerous other experts and entrepreneurs gave further insights into services and solutions that will certainly improve the conditions of patients and caretakers significantly in the next years.
With two day’s conference and its accompanying events, the Health 2.0 delivered a wide thematic overview and good networking opportunities for developers, entrepreneurs, investors and policy-makers in the health market. The regular event will be hosted in Berlin again in 2013. Already, at the beginning of next year, the Health 2.0 Middle East and the Health 2.0 India will be taking place. Meanwhile, the innovators of the Health 2.0 network will also be meeting at regular local events. You can find information about the Berlin group here.

The 2012 Quantified Self Conference

This year, the Quantified Self Conference took place on the 15th and 16th of September 2012 in Palo Alto, California. At the Arrillaga Alumni Center of the Stanford University 600 self-trackers, scientists, entrepreneurs and journalists met up to exchange their stories and to network. Two days beforehand, more than 40 organizers from cities such as New York, London, Amsterdam, and Singapore had met up to discuss the development of each of the Quantified Self groups they led and to give each other tips for building up the community. This was a great opportunity especially for the organizers of European Quantified Self groups to get to know each other better and work out ideas of how to provide better support for each other.

From left to right: Gary Wolf (QS Labs), me and Maarten den Braber (QS Amsterdam) (cc by rajiv zumi)

The conference itself kicked off on the 15th of September with a keynote speech by Gary Wolf, Co-Founder of Quantified Self. Along with a line of other speakers, he gave an overview of the origins of the movement and the importance of Show & Tell as a central element of the Quantified Self meetups. In these short presentations, the speakers offer an insight into their self-tracking projects and can thus convey what they have learned about themselves. The visitors could convince themselves of the entertaining qualities of this form of presentation in a total of 26 contributions throughout the conference. In the further course of the keynote speech, Davis Masten emphasized the potential that the growing dispersion of sensor technologies has for science and research. Thus, according to Masten, the number of sensors built into smartphones will increase from five to fifteen in the next years, which will constitute an enormous source of data. Also, the amount of sensors, which are installed in cities in order to measure traffic, the air quality and many other parameters are expected to increase 20-fold by 2020. The data that governments, communities, businesses and even private individuals are able to generate with these technologies can be used in research and development at a completely new level of detail.

Gary Wolf at the keynote speech (cc by chloester)

After this keynote the conference programs were officially opened. In six blocks over the two days, visitors were given the opportunity to choose between multiple presentations taking place simultaneously, which resulted in more than 200 presentations and workshops available in total. These numerous offers along with multiple breaks allowed for plenty of time for the participants to exchange information. From all the presentations and workshops that I visited, the workshop offered by Michael Kim about Habit Design particularly impressed me. There, the leader of the San Francisco Habit Design meetups talked about the elements necessary to develop products and services, which can support people in acquiring positive habits. Kim showed that Quantified Self and Gamification alone are mostly not enough to achieve long-lasting changes, but that instead many further circumstances in the user’s daily routine also play a determining role. In particular, he underlined the importance of triggers such as reminders, in order to practice new behavior regularly. I learned so much from this discussion that I would like to offer some deeper insights into this topic in one of my upcoming articles.

Conference Room in the Alumni Center of the Stanford University (cc by chloester)

One of the highlights among the many program points was surely the testimonial given by the entrepreneur and biohacker Dave Asprey, who had conducted self-experiments on his sexuality. Thus, he had managed, with the help of a number of various exercises, to experience an orgasm that lasted 20 minutes (to those, who are interested, it should be mentioned at this point that Mr. Asprey seriously advises against any imitation. here you’ll find further information). The presentation by the former wrestler Calvin Buhler about targeted changes of one’s physique also proved entertaining. Buhler described how he had started losing so much muscle mass after ending his wrestling career, that he ended up being half the man he used to be. Finally, with a special fitness and nutritional program, he built up 40 pounds of muscle mass in 40 weeks and then presented to his audience the process of the changes in his physique depending on nutrient in-take. Besides the many presentations and workshops, some of the most popular companies in the Quantified Self scene such as Bodymedia, Zeo and 23andme along with numerous start-ups such as Lift, Scanadu, Tictrac and WikiLife introduced themselves. This gave a good overview of upcoming trends and enabled a direct contact to the founders and developers of these companies.

The organizers of the worldwide Quantified Self groups (cc by rajiv zume)

A further highlight of the conference was the closing speech by Kevin Kelly, Co-Founder of Quantified Self. Here, he talked about the development of the self and the importance of data. When considering cultural history, awareness of the Self is a relatively young achievement, whereas the sense for individuality hadn’t developed in our historic ancestors for the longest time. According to Kelly, the current advance in sensor technology results in an expansion of the self based on the information that we can derive from the world we live in – a data sphere. The potential of Quantified Self and the capturing of data therefore lays less in numbers and graphs as much in opening our senses to allow us to perceive things that had previously remained concealed to us. In the second part of his speech, Kelly talked about data, its value and how it should be used. In this illustration, he advocated an open approach to data, which in their raw form, much like the letters of the alphabet, can serve as a basis to create larger structures with profound meaning. Not until data is coalesced with the enrichment of its context can naked data produce valuable information. Thus, Kelly concluded, raw data should not be considered as the property of businesses and institutions, but rather should be made accessible to third parties, in order to make their inherent potential available for refinement. This philosophical and visionary view of the Quantified Self and the potential of personal data was an apt closing and inspired many participants to further discussions even after the official end of the conference that shall surely soon find their continuation. The next Quantified Self Conference will take place in Amsterdam in May 2013.

Quantified Self Conference is coming

It’s been a while since I last took time to write some English articles. In the meantime, I’ve been writing a number of blog posts for my German fellows about the Quantified Self, which is growing here pretty fast as well. Anyway you should stay posted for some good news here to come.
Starting this Friday, I will be at the German trade fair show IFA with the Wearable Technologies’ team. This will be a good opportunity to connect with people from the sports, health and wearable tech space. In September I am attending the 2012 Quantified Self Conference in Palo Alto. After my great time at the 2011 QS Conference in Amsterdam, I am looking forward to meet some more international self-trackers, inventors and innovators. After the conference, you will find a review of my impressions here.

f.lux – Your Mac in Sync with Nature

Your display’s color temperature is ordinarily designed to simulate the color temperature of bright daylight. This raises your serotonin levels and stimulates your physical activity. When using your computer during the daytime, this provides a healthy stimulus to keep you awake, but today many of us use our computers until late into the night. When we do so, the daytime-like light stimulus can interfere with our natural biorhythm and influence our sleeping habits in a negative way.

f.lux is a plugin for your mac that runs in the background and changes your screen‘s colors to warmer tones after sunset. This subtly helps your body calm down and prepare its bio-rhythm for a good night’s rest. The plugin itself is totally simple: Just select your preferred color temperature for day- and night-time, and allow using your current location so that the timer can automatically be adapted to the times of sunrise and sunset in your area. Once you’ve adjusted these settings, your screen‘s colors automatically dims after the sunset. If a situation arises in which you actually do want the full blast of brightness at night, you can easily pause or stop the dimming effect of f.lux.

I’ve been testing f.lux for several months now, and I really like its calming effect. When working in front of the computer until late at night, the warm screen colors really help to tire me down more naturally and allow me to get myself from work to sleepy mode in an instant. When considering the possibilites that for example f.lux or Philips’ goLite have to offer, I see a whole range of intelligent and interconnected light environment solutions coming up in the future. Since many of us spend such a great amount or our lifetime facing a computer screen, f.lux already does a great job at supporting our physical wellbeing today. Thanks to the developers, you can download the mac os plugin for free here.