[Although I am tempted to write about how terribly I did in the classroom today, cooler heads have prevailed, and instead…(but I did want you to know, the first day is my worst (let’s hope))…If only I read had and adopted some of these tips.]
The temptation to detail every bit of personal minutia is very strong in this culture and this moment. It is easy to discount this phenomena as the simple multiplicative function of digital technology and unprecedented levels of self-absorption and “me-ness.” However, I hope that most sociologists see it as an opportunity for unimaginable insight into the human condition–insight that would never be gained through surveys, or interviews, or even observation. This is because the self-documenters (more on them in a minute, with examples) both obsessively categorize and document every waking minute (as opposed to relying on their opinions or perceptions, made errorfull by time or from shame…or our own biased opinions of the world we witness) and they tell us what to pay attention to. That is, they tell us what biostatistics, or opinions, or perceptions, most strongly characterize their own experience. It is as if our respondents can now tell us what questions to ask, before we even tell them why we’re calling.
The (Nicholas) Feltron Reports are the most extreme (and well-designed) example of this phenomena. To me, these reports are magical.
Some may prefer a pared-down approach, with summary documentation, provided daily via RSS feed. For example, McLeod’s Morale-O-Meter, records morale, health, sleep, alcohol and caffeine of one man, daily, and provides the data in an easy-to-read histogram.
While tied in a somewhat unfortunate way to parenting paranoia, the Trixie Tracker illustrates exactly the sociological potential to which I wish to point: even parents who obsess over baby’s every minute may be unable to identify the destructive rhythms in their sleep cycle related to all manner of early life dysfunction. Thus, the formal attributes of experience are unveiled through the rigorous collection of data.
Cultural conservatives will decry this state of affairs–privacy! other-directedness! self-effacement! modesty!–but it simply isn’t different in kind from keeping a journal. The privacy issue is hard to debate, although I see no evidence of the mellifluous effects of public knowledge that you drank a beer Monday night. I suppose if you drank a six pack every night…
And if you, too, would like to join these ranks, I understand Daytum is almost ready to go.
Most of the above, h/t Kottke.
Also, there’s Peter’s desire to create his own happiness index. If you haven’t already, pop over and give him some feedback.
Plus which, if memory serves there’s a Silicon Valley dude who is documenting everything–photos, letters, etc.–and loading it all up into huge databases. Tips on who this might be er welcome.