On the proposed Quantified Self Research Network

response to Mark Carrigan‘s post “Proposal: Quantified Self Research Network” (Aug 1).

This is a great idea, and addresses needs I’ve thought about for a while. Thanks also to Whitney Erin Boesel for the Cyborgology post “What is the Quantified Self Now?” (May 22, 2013) which you build on, making the excellent point that “there‚Äôs a lot more to ‘quantified self’ (lowercase) than just Quantified Self (title case).”

I’ve participated in Quantified Self matters a fair bit in the San Francisco area in the last two years, including presenting my own #qs-related explorations at a QS event (see “Healthier Information“), attending the 2012 QS conference at Stanford, and meeting the QS founders Kevin Kelly & Gary Wolf.

What I’ve discovered is that my interests are more in “quantified self” than in Quantified Self. First, all along I was mainly interested in applying the ideas to “information diet” and cognitive rather than health issues. This is a part of QS — see for example the “Quantified Mind” project from Yoni Donner & Nick Winter — but it seems somewhat marginal to this mainly health- or “well-being”-oriented movement.

But perhaps more significantly, from following QS news and events, I had an increasing sense that many people interested in QS are, like me, oriented to the ideas, or policy and product-design issues/opportunities; whereas the QS organizers’ explicit stress, even requirement of telling your own [personal] story was noticeably at odds with this. I started to feel that QS had a prevailing confessional, self-revelation aspect which seems, frankly, rather culturally specific, Californian, and to me, alienating. (and as Hope Leman aptly commented, narcissistic). In March I commented on Twitter: “interested in #QuantifiedSelf ideas/product-design, not the org/events’ focus on personal testimony. Need alternate or sub-group?”

Whitney Erin Boesel’s observations suggest the changing presence of different factions in QS, with startups, medical doctors and insurance company representatives apparently diminishing. I agree, it shows there is a “quantified self” field that’s significantly broader that Quantified Self, and so a research network like you propose is an excellent and needed idea.