“What are you tracking?” This is the conversation at Quantified Self (QS) meetups. The Quantified Self movement celebrates “self-knowledge through numbers.”
In our current love affair with QS, we tend to focus on data and the mind. Technology helps manage and mediate that relationship. The body is in there somewhere, too, as a sort of “slave” to the mind and the technology.
From blood sugar to pulse, from keystrokes to time spent online, the assumption is that there’s power in numbers. We also assume that what can be measured is what matters, and if behaviors can be measured, they can be improved. The entire Quantified Self movement has grown around the belief that numbers give us an insight into our bodies that our emotions don’t have.
However, in our relationship with technology, we easily fall out of touch with our bodies. We know how many screen hours we’ve logged, but we are less likely to be able to answer the question: “How do you feel?”
In our obsession with numbers and tracking, are we moving further and further away from the wisdom of the body? Our feelings? Our senses?
Most animals rely entirely on their senses and the wisdom of the body to inform their behavior. Does our focus on numbers, measuring, and tracking move us further and further away from cultivating a real connection to our “Essential Self”?
What if we could start a movement that addresses our sense of self and brings us into a more harmonious relationship with our bodymind and with technology? This new movement would co-exist alongside the Quantified Self movement. I’d like to call this movement the Essential Selfmovement.
This isn’t an either/or proposition — QS and Essential Self movements both offer value. The question is: in what contexts are the numbers more helpful than our senses? In what constructive ways can technology speak more directly to our bodymind and our senses?