Inventing the Self

November 13th, 2013 by Yitian Liao · 1 Comment

McCarthy and Wright’s intent for the book was not to develop a theory of experience with technology. They suggested that the experience can interact with sensual, emotional, volitional and imaginative aspects. People should be able to understand the felt experience with technology. This theory is hard for me to understand, but case studies or examples from the MIT technology review and the Quantified Self organization made me understand a lot more about it.

I track data daily to record my sleep quality, skin condition, and expenses, as Wolf does, just I don’t bother tracking my food calories because I feel that it is too painful. My grandma recommended my mom to record her blood pressure every week before, and my grandpa carries a heart tracker to record the number of heartbeats. I never thought it could be a way to the understand self in a fashion similar to windows or mirrors. After Wolf’s talk, which is like a knock of head, I realize it is very related to self-knowledge and self-improvement. I feel like decisions I am not intended to make for self-improvement for social life actually help with it.
Similar to Wolf, Joans’s experience with how to manage stress also advocates that we use information to be more aware of the self and use the data to improve the self. By knowing our own condition, we have a sense of control and power to do things about it. Knowing what we are doing and what is good for the self is a different approach to understand the self. Joans also provides a good example about Damasio’s mind, brain and body: we feel stress, stress affects the brain, the brain increases the heart rate, and we will feel tired eventually. However, since we are so used to release stress (like Joans) and fall asleep (the MIT technology review) by using these technological tools, will this make us lose the ability to do self-adjustment?

I believe different people will choose different things to track, such as Kitty Ireland’s grandma (one video from the QS website) who made a daily about boys she had crash on or relationship with. We record or keep track on things we which feel are important. I think, for things that we don’t record, we either don’t care or feel more private so as not to write them down. Data represents pieces from our life, and it could conduct us through a lifetime. When the lifetime turns into a story, it may help to play out an autobiography—a way to understand self. Facebook, the social technology product, can also be considered a record of life. These details, indeed, make up life.

McCarthy and Wright used an example in chapter one regarding high student and text messaging, which makes me think which way we express the self is more real: words or voices. We often say, “You sound like you are not okay today, what happened?” Emotion leaks through voices. Many arguments happen by incautious usage of words because sometimes people speak words without having second thoughts and they may not express themselves correctly. This could be avoided by sending text messages, which will allow people have time to rethink words they want to use to represent themselves. However, the voice truly represents how we actually feel under that certain moment.

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1 response so far ↓

  • Yana Walton // Nov 13th 2013 at 4:40 pm

    Speaking of tracking private things, I ran across this app: (ultra hetero and super hokey).

    However, in another interesting practical usage of personal data incurred using techonology, one of my friends is a public health adviser who assists folks who have recently been diagnosed with STIs with reaching out to partners in efforts to increase access to treatment & reduce the spread of certain infections. So, often folks will share their Grindr,etc.. accounts with my friend in order to essentially forward public health aims.

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