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Title: A quantified past : fieldwork and design for remembering a data-driven life
Author: Elsden, Christopher Richard
ISNI:       0000 0004 7660 0571
Awarding Body: Newcastle University
Current Institution: University of Newcastle upon Tyne
Date of Award: 2018
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A 'data-driven life' has become an established feature of present and future technological visions. Smart homes, smart cities, an Internet of Things, and particularly the Quantified Self movement are all premised on the pervasive datafication of many aspects of everyday life. This thesis interrogates the human experience of such a data-driven life, by conceptualising, investigating, and speculating about these personal informatics tools as new technologies of memory. With respect to existing discourses in Human-Computer Interaction, Memory Studies and Critical Data Studies, I argue that the prevalence of quantified data and metrics is creating fundamentally new and distinct records of everyday life: a quantified past. To address this, I first conduct qualitative, and idiographic fieldwork - with long-term self-trackers, and subsequently with users of 'smart journals' - to investigate how this data-driven record mediates the experience of remembering. Further, I undertake a speculative and design-led inquiry to explore context of a 'quantified wedding'. Adopting a context where remembering is centrally valued, this Research through Design project demonstrates opportunities and develops considerations for the design of data-driven tools for remembering. Crucially, while speculative, this project maintains a central focus on individual experience, and introduces an innovative methodological approach 'Speculative Enactments' for engaging participants meaningfully in speculative inquiry. The outcomes of this conceptual, empirical and speculative inquiry are multiple. I present, and interpret, a variety of rich descriptions of existing and anticipated practices of remembering with data. Introducing six experiential qualities of data, and reflecting on how data requires selectivity and construction to meaningfully account for one's life, I argue for the design of 'Documentary Informatics'. This perspective fundamentally reimagines the roles and possibilities for personal informatics tools; it looks beyond the current present-focused and goal-oriented paradigm of a data-driven life, to propose a more poetic orientation to recording one's life with quantified data.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available