The quantified self

The quantified self

Counting every moment

Technology and health: Measuring your everyday activities can help improve your quality of life, according to aficionados of “self-tracking”

THE idea of measuring things to chart progress towards a goal is commonplace in large organisations. Governments tot up trade figures, hospital waiting times and exam results; companies measure their turnover, profits and inventory. But the use of metrics by individuals is rather less widespread, with the notable exceptions of people who are trying to lose weight or improve their fitness. Most people do not routinely record their moods, sleeping patterns or activity levels, track how much alcohol or caffeine they drink or chart how often they walk the dog.

But some people are doing just these things. They are an eclectic mix of early adopters, fitness freaks, technology evangelists, personal-development junkies, hackers and patients suffering from a wide variety of health problems. What they share is a belief that gathering and analysing data about their everyday activities can help them improve their lives—an approach known as “self-tracking”, “body hacking” or “self-quantifying”.

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