The art of Self-tracking

February 20, 2012

The quantifiable patterns of our everyday habits can provide us with useful information about our vital functions and help us understand in a better way how our body responds to the activities that form our unique nature. But did you ever imagine that this simple cluster of data could become a source of inspiration for many talented artists? Today we are going to see a whole new side of self-tracking and travel where research meets art!

Meet Laurie Frick
Laurie Frick is an American neuroscientist who decided to monitor her everyday actions and experiences with the help of the Quantified Self website. However, her exploring nature led her to a deeper examination of the results, and the data she collected made her ask some hard questions such as “Do we make our quantifiable patterns or do they make us?” These concerns, combined with Laurie’s artistic background triggered the creation of a colorful and literally unique collection of abstract images, representing self-tracking data and statistics. 

Language of sleep

Nicholas Felton, a graphic designer in the self-tracking world!
Nicholas Felton is the co-founder of (one of the websites we presented on our previous post about lifelogging), and currently a member of the product design team at Facebook. His love for data and charts was the inspiration for a project he calls “annual report” and in which he visualizes information drawn from his memory, calendar, photos and also other online services that he uses to keep records of his music-listening, movie-renting and photo activities. According to Nicholas, when he created the first Annual Report, he thought that it would be primarily interesting to only his friends and family, but surprisingly, it was also popular among people who he had never met.  As a result, since then he has been dedicating increasing amounts of time to documenting and charting the passage of each year. When asked where he finds inspiration for his patterns, Nicholas answers “From traveling and reading. From modernist design, nature, math, geometry, science and music. In obsessiveness, language, humor, little moments, simplicity and elegance.”

A Quantified Self Exhibition
As part of Innovation Dublin 2011, Dublin City Council’s The LAB Gallery brought together some of Dublin’s most innovative artists to collaborate with Shimmer Research , a company that designs, develops and manufactures wearable wireless sensors,  to make an art exhibition inspired by the Quantified Self movement. For example, artist Michelle Browne was inspired by the ways in which the human body reacts in situations of high risk and decided to document a game of poker. Using Galvanic Skin Response (GSR) to monitor physiological reactions to the game, she gathered data that was then fed back into a chair positioned at the end of a diving board. Motorized elements in the board translated the physiological responses of the players into data visualization.

(If you want to learn more about the Quantified Self Exhibition, click here to download the Quantified Self book!)

What about you? Have you ever created an artistic representation of your tracking data?