voices in the family

Self Tracking: Quantified Self Movement


According to the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, 69 percent of adults in the U.S. track a health indicator for themselves or a loved one. With paper and pencil or state of the art sensors and data services, Americans are tracking weight, diet, and exercise routines—even blood pressure, blood sugar, headaches, mood, sleep patterns, and more.

Dan Gottlieb looks at self-tracking as a trend that’s influencing our overall approach to health, with leaders of what’s known as the Quantified Self Movement and others closely associated with it. We hear from Susannah Fox, Ernesto Ramirez, and Heather Patterson.

Susannah Fox studies the cultural shifts taking place at the intersection of technology and health care. She’s associate director of Digital Strategy at the Pew Internet & American Life Project. Her research has documented the social life of health information, the concept of peer-to-peer healthcare, and the role of the internet among people living with chronic disease.

Ernesto Ramirez works with Quantified Self Labs founder Gary Wolf. He’s getting his Ph.D. in Public Health and developing the science of persuasive health technology.

Heather Patterson is a postdoctoral fellow at NYU’s Information Law Institute and Department of Media, Culture, & Communication, where she researches cognitive, social, and legal aspects of personal information sharing and information flows.


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  • Steve

    This is a fascinating topic, but I think it would be really helpful to add what role statistics plays in these apps and the individuals collecting data. Without the appropriate statistical analysis, this kind of study is not guaranteed to be helpful. Data for data’s sake can be misleading. It is known that people often looks for patterns in random stimuli even if there is none to be found.

  • Steve

    Sorry for the grammatical errors, I didn’t realize how quickly I wrote and submitted until just now.

  • iris

    need help! I do not know how to use sound-cloud! I used to just hit download and be able to save a show

    • Sarah Kaizar

      Hi Iris — Sorry to hear you’re having trouble with SoundCloud — hope I can help! The audio player on the page can be used by simply clicking the big blue “Play” button. If you’d like to download the audio as you’ve done previously, just click “Download” in the upper right corner of the SoundCloud player, under the “Share” button. Voices audio can also be accessed via the RSS feed — feed://whyy.org/cms/voicesinthefamily/feed/ Hope this is helpful — please let us know if you are having any further issues. And thanks for listening!




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