THE BLOG
10/07/2012 09:51 BST | Updated 08/09/2012 06:12 BST

Using Data to Develop Society and Ourselves

The notion of the Quantified Self is to take data from your every day activities to help map your behaviour to help you identify trends in the way you think, feel and act. You can then use this data to change your behaviour should you so wish.

For the last six months or so I've been using Endomondo to keep a track of when I go running. I get instant feedback on how far I ran, how quick (or rather, how slow) I ran, a GPS tracked map of my route, how many calories I've burned and a whole bunch of other interesting bits of data.

For the last year and a half I've been using Foursquare to keep a log of the places I've been, who I was there with, what I was doing when I checked-in and the different places I was recommended to go and visit the next time I was in the area.

For the last 16 weeks I've been using Instagram to take photos of the places I've been, interesting things I've seen and sharing other great images from people I'm following on the service.

The Quantified Self

All three of these platforms are being used inadvertently to help me quantify myself.

The notion of the Quantified Self is to take data from your every day activities to help map your behaviour to help you identify trends in the way you think, feel and act. You can then use this data to change your behaviour should you so wish.

The obvious place to start with the Quantified Self is staying fit. The ease of tracking the amount of exercise you do has spawned a whole raft of startups from Zombies, Run! to Fitbit.

This technology has been in use for a while. West Ham United manager Sam Allardyce was using GPS data to track the performance of his footballers at Bolton several years ago, but it is only now that the same technology has been available on a mass scale.

What can it tell us?

On an individual level, you can keep a log of what food you eat and work out how much more or little of a particular type of food you should add or remove from your diet.

Or you can work out how your blood glucose level is affected and plan your meals accordingly.

What about tracking your mood to find out what makes you happy, sad or indifferent?

But, where this data becomes really interesting is when it is accumulated into one dataset.

Big Data Rules

Big Data is what governments use to help plan resources, and have done for hundreds of years.

Now, with the development and continuing evolution of digital culture, we can start identifying macro trends on a very micro level to help us identify what can help better society.

I am not advocating, before you suggest it, that we give all our data to the government.

We can however all make little changes to our lives, identified using new digital tools, to help make our lives better on both a personal and societal level.