Citizense Makers: making sense of your data

Self-tracking or quantified-self practices, where people monitor and record specific aspects of their life, have become more and more popular over the last few years. Life logging has been a practice for a special subculture of tech savvy ‘computer geeks’ but the penetration of smartphones, wearables and always-on sensors have brought this into the mainstream.

For example, people knowingly use wearables such as Fitbit, Jawbone and Apple watches (to name a few) to record their activities. Apps running in the background even record data without people releasing it.

All of this ubiquitous technology makes this data collection an effortless activity and the data trace that people leave behind is enormous. This collected data might be useful for some big companies who have algorithms in place to process it, but the real value for individuals is still vague.

Furthermore, there is a clear distinction between having data and possessing the context or tools to convert it to information. How much context would an individual need to make sense of data?

Personal informatics

This exploratory study is looking into how data from personal informatics tools can be shared and explored for collective cause. Instead of sharing only high-level statistics of physical activities and physiological measurements, which is usually the case with personal tracking technologies, we investigate sharing and comparing of fine-grained datasets.

For example, a heart rate recorded by a Fitbit wearable – one might know what a good heart rate is for cardio training when running, but what should be one’s resting heart rate when sitting behind a desk at work? Do everyone’s heart rates go up when there is a stressful time in the office?

The Citizense Makers platform aims to provide people more context (in the form of social context) and allows them to ground their data using other people’s data as a comparison. It gives individuals the ability to share and explore their personal data in context with other people’s data, while retaining complete control over it.

It only takes couple of click to start exploring data – one needs to log in using an existing Fitbit account and then the system makes a link between the Fitbit servers. The platform can be used as a personal reflection tool and it uses scroll-based interactions to play thought a day using data recorded form a personal informatics device such as a Fitbit.

Data liberation

One of the main focuses of the Citizense Makers platform is data liberation – giving people back the ownership of their data and letting them decide with whom they want to share it with.

Citizense Makers platform allows people to set individual rights to each person they want to share data with, giving the control of the data back its originator. Adding a more social element to self-tracking, the system also allows people to annotate and discuss interesting relationships in the data. As this socially contextual data discovery could give more meaning to experiences and perhaps help individuals get a better understanding of their lives, it could also help them in collective sense-making, which could lead to better decisions.

The initial study looked at how data collected from personal informatics tools can be shared between occupants in workplaces and explored for a collective cause, but we can imagine this tool could be reconfigured and used in a range of different settings. We will be maintaining and improving the Citizense Makers platform to help people explore and analyse their data in ways that are understandable and meaningful for them. Eventually we will open the platform up for a larger public and link it to other interesting datasets, giving people the ability to compare and relate their data to others.

For more information please contact Aare Puussaar.