BBC2's Horizon programme and the Open University have worked together on a study of life-logging. These pages will give you more information about life-logging and the Open University.
For the Horizon study, our three participants, and the presenter were each given FitBit activity monitors that kept track of how many steps they took each day. The FitBit is a tiny device that can be carried in a pocket, attached to a belt or worn around the neck. It contains a sensor known as an accelerometer which measures the small impacts created each time someone takes a step. At the end of each day, the participants uploaded the records from their FitBit along with information, taken from their smartphones, of where they had been in the day.
The step data was turned into graphics that gave everyone taking part an idea of how well they were progressing. Rather than just using numbers or charts, we chose to show the results as a race. The walker starts each day at zero steps on the left-hand side of the graphic. By the end of the day they will have moved some distance towards the right of the graphic - the better they do, the further they have moved.
The graphic also allows participants to see how well they are doing over a period of time. We took an idea from a 1980s Atari arcade game called Hard Drivin' and had the users race their ghosts! As well as their current step count (shown in the brightest colour), participants can see a series of ghosts showing how well they've done in the past few days. If they're ahead of their ghosts, their step count is improving, if they're behind - well time to go and take a walk. Here we can see that the user's step count is just behind their previous day's score, but they are doing much better than they were just a few days ago.
Providing almost immediate feedback like this probably encourages people to do more. Rather than gradually sliding into a less active lifestyle users can see very quickly that they are doing less activity than perhaps they should and make an effort to change their behaviour.
Would you monitor your behaviour as carefully? What if you were told to do so by your doctor or your health insurance company? And how would you feel about sharing your data - either through social media such as Facebook and Twitter, or having it used by health services and medical companies as part of their research?
The game becomes even more interesting when we allow participants to see how well they're doing compared to other people in the study. Now each person can not only see how well they're doing compared to previous days, but how well they're doing against one another.
Not surprisingly, things can get pretty competitive as people try not just to beat their own best, but also try to beat their friends' scores!
If you'd like to learn about technologies related to life-logging and the modern computer as part of an undergraduate degree, you might consider studying TU100 My Digital Life. You can find more details on the link below.
The Open University produces a very large amount of free educational materials on the OpenLearn website and through iTunes U. You can learn more below.
If you'd like to know more about related research please follow the following link.
And if you'd like to know how to begin monitoring various aspects of your life, visit the page below.