Data Occupations discussed the Quantified Self, which refers to the act of associating personal actions, attributes, etc. to numeric values. The idea that I found most interesting in this article was the notion that “data itself is beside the point- that only the process of gathering data alone is the best way one can learn anything meaningful”(Boesel). People that submit themselves to a Quantified Self outlook on their goals are so consumed with the numbers that represent them, but Boesel is suggesting that these numbers are not insightful.


I find this both interesting and accurate. The most common example of the Quantified Self is in terms of physical fitness and exercise, so I will relate this to Boesel’s claim. Imagine the common scenario in which someone makes their New Years resolution to start working out and tracking their weight loss. They weigh in at 190 pounds at the beginning of the year and six months later, after hard physical training, they weigh in at 165 pounds. What can be learned by these numbers (data points) alone? Nothing. The lessons learned were the discipline, healthy eating, and exercise routines. The lessons are part of the process of collecting the data as a form of awareness. The data alone is not instructional; rather, it simply visualizes changes in quantities over time.


And as we already know from our last project, visualizations don’t always tell the whole story. In this example, the loss of 25 pounds seems great on paper or a computer screen, but the question that remains is “what was your subjective experience? How do you feel?” (Boesel). A weight of 165 pounds could be at the 50th percentile for this person’s height, but if they don’t feel good at this weight then the goal has not been accomplished. Maybe they want to loose a couple more pounds or maybe they think they lost too much weight. Either way, the data alone can’t show this because it is subjective to the individual. In essence, the data results from QS are not important; the process of collection and personal subjectivity are what provide the true value.


The media clip that I chose is an image representing plagiarism. This provides an identical message to that of the exercise example in that “data itself is beside the point.” In the top left hand corner of the image, a grade of “A+” is displayed. Receiving an A+ through plagiarism or cheating does not help you learn the material, so once again data (the A+ grade) has no value. Grades are intended to reflect each student’s individual knowledge, which is attained through the process of studying. When the process is neglected, no real lessons are learned and data has even less significance.