What does all our personal data add up to? Is it a boon to big data marketers helping companies mine your personal data or just a nightmare scenario for complete loss of privacy? As an artist who grew up in the tech industry and loves technology, I have thought about a future where personal data could become meaningful. Maybe all this vaguely unpleasant surveillance and data gathering about us could turn into a surprisingly insightful view of ourselves and be delivered in ways that will be irresistible. In the future I imagine human data portraits manifested from reams of personal tracking data gathered invisibly as we move thru the day. Genuine data-selfies. We are so close to gathering every possible morsel of data about us, imagine what could be possible once you owned every bit of data gathered about you. After some thought, I decided it’s more than just seeing personal data and abstract patterns of you. It’s about what these patterns will tell us about ourselves. Data collected about us will unfold a personal narrative and story to reveal a hidden part of us we are trained to ignore, a way to know ourselves and anticipate what comes next. Perhaps seeing the abstract patterns and rhythms of your self-tracking data is a short-cut to mindfulness. A quick and dirty way to boost your immune system, the benefits of meditation and self-reflection without much effort.
We describe self-tracking in Calvinist utilitarian terms using fitness and health examples, the real fuel will be the desire to understand ourselves. While social-media, Twitter and Facebook tapped into the basic emotional desire for bonding and connection to other people, the personal data phenomenon will tap into the basic emotional desire to know ourselves. To see yourself, the part of you that’s invisible to you. To understand and anticipate. Who am I?