Whooley, Mark

Bernd, Ploderer.

Gray, Kathleen


Self-tracking, the process of recording one’s own behaviours, thoughts and feelings, is a popular approach to enhance one’s self-knowledge. While dedicated self-tracking apps and devices support data collection, previous research highlights that the integration of data constitutes a barrier for users. In this study we investigated how members of the Quantified Self movement—early adopters of self-tracking tools—overcome these barriers. We conducted a qualitative analysis of 51 videos of Quantified Self presentations to explore intentions for collecting data, methods for integrating and representing data, and how intentions and methods shaped reflection. The findings highlight two different intentions—striving for self-improvement and curiosity in personal data—which shaped how these users integrated data, i.e. the effort required. Furthermore, we identified three methods for representing data—binary, structured and abstract—which influenced reflection. Binary representations supported reflection-in-action, whereas structured and abstract representations supported iterative processes of data collection, integration and reflection. For people tracking out of curiosity, this iterative engagement with personal data often became an end in itself, rather than a means to achieve a goal. We discuss how these findings contribute to our current understanding of self-tracking amongst Quantified Self members and beyond, and we conclude with directions for future work to support self-trackers with their aspirations.


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