When data gets dark: Why one cyclist quit the quantified self
Jul30

When data gets dark: Why one cyclist quit the quantified self

Shortly after my flesh recently met pavement, I had an epiphany about today’s notion of the quantified self. I’ve been a believer in self-quantifying, or what is largely employing technology’s ever-expanding ability to help us track our states of being, for nearly a quarter-century. In the name of realizing greater personal potential, I’ve enthusiastically tracked my sleep and diet, and my time spent crouched over a laptop as well as while meditating. But in the days, weeks, and months last spring after my left hip hit the road during a bike race at 29.3 miles per hour — one of multiple metrics logged on my bike computer just before it sensed no movement whatsoever — I had a different sort of revelation. I came to the conclusion that the quantified self, which in today’s booming wearables era means more and more to a rapidly growing audience, has become bloated. Ravenous for more metrics Up until my crash (the good news: hip bruised, not broken), and like many other people, the desire to gather metrics about my own state of being has, over the last five years, approached insatiable. There’s so much information available to mine, via accelerometers on our wrists (fitness trackers), GPS-technology in our pockets (smartphones), and databases in the thin air (the Cloud). We can consistently review the quality of our sleep, the calories in our diets coming from fat, carbs, or protein, and the regularity with which we turn away from our work in exchange for some fresh air. The quantified self, a term reportedly popularized by a Wired writer in 2007 but arguably as old as the ancient Olympic Games or any phenomenon that might drive humans to explore their capabilities, is nowadays a commanding biological dashboard available to just about anyone willing to invest a few hundred dollars into personal electronics. In deeply measuring our states of activity, being, and behavior, the argument goes, all of this self-quantification allows us to know ourselves better. Or does it? Trust yourself, not your smartwatch In terms of quantifying myself, I’d come a long way since the days of using a kitchen timer to lengthen meditation sessions, and a Univac-style heart-rate monitor to log running performance. In the last couple years I’ve tracked every watt generated while riding my bicycle, and via app come face to face with the nutritional blunder that is late-night chocolate bingeing. (That candy bar was six hundred calories?!?) When I’d get only four hours of sleep ahead of a scheduled morning workout or a big day at the desk, the dismal figure and lousy sleep quality would, courtesy of my on-wrist technology, stare...

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Fitbit Surge spotted on Obama, cycling tracking to come
Mar23

Fitbit Surge spotted on Obama, cycling tracking to come

It can’t hurt to have the President of the United States photographed wearing your product. Such a photo op has certainly garnered attention for Fitbit, whose Surge fitness watch ended up on the wrist of President Obama last week. Not bad timing for the company, as it announced on Monday that it will add to the device the ability to track cycling activity on at an in-depth level. “Our users are passionate about fitness and have consistently requested a way to track their outdoor cycling activity. We are delivering this feature on Fitbit Surge for active consumers looking to track and better understand performance during rides, in addition to their other workouts,” said Tim Roberts, VP of Interactive, Fitbit. “Our goal is to provide users with the tools it takes to track their exercise and reward them for doing the activities they love to do most – like biking and running.” This firmware update (anticipated later this week) means that multiple trackers can be used on one Fitbit account; the app automatically detects which one of your Fitbits you are wearing. Not lost on us is the underlying implication that, in order to have a fully “fit” life, one ought to buy many different Fitbit devices. Now, just how long until someone tries to get their hands on the President’s...

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