It can seem a little overwhelming to imagine Andy Warhol having gathered six hundred filled boxes of correspondence and various materials he gathered over his life to be preserved in his museum, I would classify myself as a bit of a digital packrat and somebody interested in quantifying myself (Lupton, 2016). For many years I have been gathering data about myself, especially to be used as a tool. While I do probably track some things that might be extraneous, I find purpose in many of the points of data that I collect about myself. This collection of various information informs me as a researcher. I find that being able to gather useful data that is relevant to my career and life is a valuable endeavor and it helps to think about it in the way a researcher would.
Being able to have one system for collecting information is an important task for any researcher. Making that collection as easy as possible and in a format that can be used would seem to be an important activity. One type of data that I have been collecting on myself for many years is a list of training that I have received. It started when I was in high school and filling out job applications, I created a document that listed my various work experience with the information that is necessary to complete an application for employment. Some applications for different pieces of information, and as I would look up that information, I would add it to the document. Much of this information was different then what I would need on a resume (and really at the time I didn’t have the experience to put together a resume). When I moved on to community college and later to my University I kept this practice up. I adapted the document to also include a list of classes that I completed (including information about the instructor, course description, credits, and even my final grades).
While this document has split up some and undergone some changes in it, I still have it and find it useful. But this process is what also started me keeping track of the training I have completed over the years. I’m a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker in Washington State. My licensure requires that I keep records regarding continuing education units that I receive (requiring every two years that I have received a certain amount and some with specific areas of knowledge). As well, I have my Educational Staff Associate certificate for working within school-based employment that I have to track similar information but related to clock hours. While this document started as a word document that I would just add entries after various training, my system has expanded.
I wrote about my system that I created for tracking these entries on my blog (Campbell, 2014). While my system is a bit different now, it is the same basic idea. I have a text file that has the text of the who, what, where, when how much… etc. I also create an entry in a CSV file (something that could be opened in Excel or spreadsheet). As I was renewing my licensure this year, I wrote about how I use this information to verify that I’m on track, plan for the following year’s continuing education, and generate a report that I could submit if I was ever audited (Campbell, 2019).
I find being able to gather this information, making it useful and practical for doing real-life activities is extremely helpful as a researcher. Following this form gives me a direct method to be able to change my behavior. Lupton (2016) describes the concept of assemblage, and it is used in sociomaterialism literature. As I gather information, such as the detailed information from my training received database. It helps to show meaning and significance in the training I have completed. While her book is almost like a cross-sectional literature review on the quantified self, it seems that she is presenting a case for our ability to have personal data that we can review and make meaningful changes in our lives.
As Gergen (2015) describes the constructionist proposals, it seems there is a strong connection between social constructionism and the idea of the quantified self. He describes how asocial constructionist will “describe and explain the world are not required by ‘what there is’” (p. 7). It would seem to be able to describe the world, there is a prerequisite that we have a way of understanding and quantifying the world. My proposal that that quantified nature ought to be practical and useful is also seen in the constructionist proposal. He goes on to state that “constructions gain their significance from their social utility” (p. 9).
For me, this process of self-tracking has been immensely useful. When I got an internet-connected scale and an Apple Watch several years ago, I lost a significant amount of weight (although there is still more that I’ve struggled to get off). Many of the things that I track make meaningful life improvements. I try to make everything as exportable and useful as I can. I like saving things in plain text. I’ve been playing around some with things being in a JSON format (a kind of plain text database). My website is a type of place that I track things that I do and I can get lost going back and reading through old posts sometimes. I even started collecting new words that I am learning there.
For me what I am most interested in currently is in finding ways to automate things. I’ve been playing pretty heavily with Siri Shortcuts to try to both track information and to automate tasks that I’m doing. It seems that this quantified self has been impactful in my life, and even in my education. This post I am writing is saved in plain text. It uses YAML to put in metadata (e.g. when I wrote it, what class it’s for, the assignment description). It is ready to be exported into HTML to post with formatting into the discussion forum, saved in my OneDrive as a completed assignment, and to add some minor additional information to be added as an essay on my website. Because of the time tracking that I do (using service called Toggl through its API in Siri Shortcuts and an app called Timery for Toggl) I can say that I spent 106 minutes reading the textbook (in two separate sittings) and that I’ve spent about 92 minutes in two separate sittings writing this post.
Campbell, J. (2014 Nov 14). Tracking trainings using drafts and launch center pro. Retrieved from https://jacobrcampbell.com/blog/2014/11/tracking-trainings-using-dafts-and-launch-center-pro
Campbell, J (2019, Oct 14) Creation of an annual report for CEUs for my LICSW. Retrieved from https://jacobrcampbell.com/blog/2019/10/creation-of-annual-report-for-ceus-for-licsw/
Gergen, K. J. (2015). Social construction: From “what is” to “what could be.” In An Invitation to Social Construction (3rd ed., pp. 1-33). Thousand Oaks, California: SAGE Publications. https://doi.org/10.4135/9781473921276
Lupton, D. (2016). The quantified self: A sociology of self-tracking. Cambridge, UK: Polity.