Everyone has thoughts.
Writing them down makes them powerful.
Appified things, smart stuff or service avatars (whatever you would like to call them) like Nike Fuelband are making the world, and our behavior in it, more "real" than ever before. Although they take form as a digital overlay, their (ever) presence can in some ways give us a more "true" reflection of our behavior than our memories or biases could otherwise accept. I recently downloaded my own 2013 Fuel Annual Report–a lovely data visualization of my last year of activity–and had two immediate reactions: disappointment and defensiveness.
I was disappointed because although 2013 was a more active year for me than 2012, it was a hard reality to accept that I had exactly 1% (10 min) of exercise per day and only .6 workouts per week. Numbers like that make it difficult to believe you're healthy. On the other hand, I was defensive because my Fuel report didn't accurately reflect all of my activity. Sometime my Fuelband was out of juice, sometimes I forgot to wear it, and other times, it flew off my wrist as I played basketball. The annual report measured what it could when it had power and when it was on my wrist. But what about all of those other times?
We can reasonably assume that as we jump forward five or so years, we'll have access to wearable computing devices that are both more comfortable and less intrusive, especially in the fitness and health spaces. As others have noted, we’re moving to an era of everything that can be measured being measured. Health is an obvious focus but each aspect of our lives will ultimately be introduced to this type of constant measurement and feedback loop.
Are we ready to face our own behavior as brazenly as Fuelband or a Withings Scale will reflect? The founders of the Quantified Self movement were a reflective bunch, really focused on trying to understand themselves and their impact on the world. Are we all ready to have this (sometimes harsh) reflection? A related aspect of QS is the assumed recommendation and decision-making support it affords. If our children grow up in a world where every decision they make is based in some way on the recommendation of an algorithm, how do we teach them to make good decisions and judgements independently?
These are important questions. They are big questions. We have yet to answer them.
Early last year, I edited the the “People Power” section in Volume 1 of the 2013 SoDA Report. Both the report and my section turned out really well, being downloaded over 150,000 times. A personal highlight is an insightful interview I did with Patrick Whitney, Director of the Institute of Design. You can download Volume 1 of the report as an interactive iPad app or go grab it here on SlideShare: 2013 SoDA Report Volume 1.
Although I edited the "Tech Talk" section of Volume 2 last year, I never got around to posting it here. That's a shame given it's a great report which was also very successful, and downloaded over 90,000 times. The intent of the Tech Talk is to "future gaze on the technology developments and trends impacting the industry." Given the larger context of our world, just about everything we do is either being directly delivered or enabled by technology. This fact is more remarkable given the great majority of designers or marketers likely never got into the business out of a love of technology. Ironically, today we can't be successful without it.
There is a lot of great thinking in the report and the interview I did with Mike Kuniavsky, author of Smart Things and Principal at PARC Innovation Services Group, is worth a read. He shares his thoughts on the question: "If you had to select three technologies set to change people's lives, what would they be?" You'll have to check out the report to find out. Grab the interactive iPad version or, view it on SlideShare:
One final note: Volume 1 of the 2014 SoDA Report is out imminently! Look for it.