• Gabriella Garcia

QuantHumanists Week 2: Catching up

I just joined Quantified Humanists this past Friday after two classes had already gone by, so this post serves as a quick catch-up just to get me on track with the class assignments. I had a lot of reservations when considering this class, as I feared building an unnecessary amount of anxiety as I spend the semester tracking my personal data, confronting myself in hard numbers, a microscope held up to achievements and flaws equally. But I realized that quantification habits have been a regular part of my lifestyle, often serving in times to help me climb out of depression or points in life where I feel a total loss of control. It's helped me.

I have a lot to say about the subject and I look forward to expanding into this conversation as the semester continues!

Assignment 2: Dear Data

We were asked to track and visualize a data point over the course of the week in the style of Dear Data, a project started by two friends who would send a weekly postcard visualizing a datapoint to keep in touch. It's a delightfully intimate expression of quantified self, and was a great introduction to the class in helping me realize that it doesn't have to be scary.

As I was late to join the class, I had to look backward for something that was already being tracked (or could be analyzed) on a daily basis. I reached for my gratitude journals, which have been a regular practice of mine for about four years now.

Some of my gratitude journals
Some of my gratitude journals

The habit begun after I bought my mom a Five Minute Journal for Christmas 2014. The Five Minute Journal is a positive psychology method inspired by Tim Ferriss, with the goal of starting each day by intentionally reflecting on that for which you are grateful. I'm not sure if my mom ever picked the habit up, but I certainly did. The practice has sincerely helped me develop a resilient growth mindset, even if on some days the thing I'm grateful for is something as simple as waking up in a warm bed.

I decided to do a character count of my weekly entries to see how much a wrote each day. I sort of lost base with my journal in January as a result of manic socializing before going back into the flow of school, but had picked it up with the beginning of the semester as a small sanity-maintenance practice. It turns out I write between 200 and 320 characters an entry... toward the end of the week, I started recording a little reflection at the end of the day as well, a result I think of bringing more mindful self-reflection back into my life.

When thinking of how to visualize, I considered first the sun as this is a morning practice. I've been reading "The Meme Machine" by Susan Blackmore for Rest of You, and in the book Blackmore reflects that thoughts in the mind are simply ideas fighting to get replicated. She compared replicators (or meme-able thoughts) as seeds waiting to fertilize the soil of our mind, and I thought about this habit I mimicked at the suggestion of Tim Ferriss, and how it's a meme seed I chose to plant in my mind. This inspired me to grow a "garden" with my character count:

This visualizatio represents Monday 2/4 through Sunday 2/10. Each length of vine with a leaf represents 50 characters. I tried to approximate the decimals, but it's not by the ruler at all. The roses are 50 characters of evening reflection, which occur on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Tuesday has no vine, I was really sick that day and somehow couldn't even take a moment to write. I tried to draw a sun on top, but my gold pen ran out of ink. Alas!

Going to try to get my reading done before class, looking forward to joining today!