by Laila Zemrani, Co-founder and CEO of Fitnescity
Recap from the 2017 Quantified Self Conference
Welcome Session: What Is the Quantified Self?
The highly anticipated annual Quantified Self Conference took place this weekend in Amsterdam at the beautiful, modern design Casa 400 Hotel. It was a lovely opportunity to meet leaders in the Quantified Self community, hear about cutting-edge self-experiments and discuss some the most exciting topics on personal data.
The series of personal tracking stories shared by members of the community were inspiring, and so were the discussions on cutting-edge practices for tracking physiological measurements and understanding why and how we track them.
This year's conference was also special because it took place exactly 10 years after Gary Wolf gathered with Kevin Kelly and a few other self-tracking "pioneers" to create what was to become the first Quantified Self meet-up. Hundreds of other meet-ups have since been organized around the world.
Ironically, it turns out that defining what the Quantified Self actually stands for is not that easy, even after all these years. Is it simply about "self-knowledge through numbers?" Is it an act of "Personal Discovery through Everyday Science," as Martjin de Groot suggested? One thing is sure though, the Quantified Self is very much about the iconic “QS Show&Tell Talks,” where members of the community share their personal experiments, as well as what they learned from them.
QS Show&Tell Talks: The Possibilities Are Simply Endless
Shows&Tell Talks are a well-known tradition within the Quantified Self community. These 7.5 minute sessions seek to answer three simple questions: (1) "What I did", (2) "How I did it" and (3) "What I learned." This year's projects were deeply original, and they confirmed one thing to me: The possibilities of self-tracking are simply endless.
While many presenters started their Shows&Tell talks with a quick introduction about why they engaged in their specific self-tracking experiments, others dived directly into the "what" portion of their talks. I couldn't help but wonder whether we should ever ask the question "why" in this "everyday science" process of self-tracking. After all, should science ever ask the question why?
Speaking of this question, I actually found that one of the most interesting talks was the one presented by Justin Trimmer, who was looking to understand why he was tracking what he was tracking. The Conference also included some other great Show&Tell Talks, such as "My Health Scars," by Ellis Bartholomeus.
My Show&Tell Talk: The Power of Visualizing Yourself (and Your Future Self)
My QS Show&Tell Talk was about my personal experiment of tracking my three-dimensional body model. I started tracking my 3D body model about a year ago. I've found the psychological motivation of body shape tracking to be very powerful, and I can't wait to see what other users think (Learn more). I've also found it interesting to be able to track physical variations with a much higher level of accuracy (e.g. body measurements, body volume, body fat percentage).
Breakouts and Workshops: The Theory Can Be Just as Exciting
The QS Conference was a good representation of the concept of "Mens et Manus," or mind and hand. The self-experimentation talks took place at the same time as a number of workshops / breakouts, which are sessions that combine theory with group discussion. One my favorite workshops was on the use of self-tracking to help family caregivers discover themselves.
On a different note, I also enjoyed the session on connecting self-tracking to medical practice. (Only 5% of doctors know the term "Quantified Self," according to Bart Trimmers.)
Perhaps the most fun session was the running workshop, a special session for which five conference participants jogged to a track close by on Day 1 of the conference and run some fitness tests. They presented their analysis to a live audience on Day 2, with the goal of understanding how performance could indicate current health.
The Fun: Fitnescity Office Hours, Live Scans and Lively Dinner Discussions