“If you’re clueless and you know it”

I am clueless about many things. As in the definition: “Lacking understanding or knowledge.” As in the sentence: “I have no clue!” As in the 20+ years I spent living with a research scientist and enduring mind-numbingly torturous dinner conversations on zinc and copper sediment in the Fraser River estuary.

That kind of clueless.

Oh, sure, there are some things about which I do have a clue, as is true with even the most profoundly clueless among us. For instance, with decades of experience working in public relations behind me, I know quite a bit about organizing news conferences, writing speeches, doing media interviews, teaching classes in things like Crisis Communications or Reputation Management, or whipping up a communications plan. And as a Mayo Clinic-trained survivor of a widow maker heart attack, I know a wee bit about cardiology in general, and quite a bit more about my particular obsession: women’s heart disease. As such, I do have a clue about what it’s like to live with a chronic and progressive illness.

So I can’t help but notice that the difference between me and a surprising number of other people out there seems to be that I am exquisitely aware of both what I do have a clue about, and what I have no clue whatsoever about on any given subject. So I usually try to keep my mouth shut as much as possible whenever encountering the latter.

The same cannot be said, alas, of some tech-types working in the digital health field of self-tracking – and here’s why I dare to make that observation.  Continue reading

Digital temptations: “Quantifying, tracking or gamifying everything”

There’s a pervasive haze of “If you build it, they will come!” in tech circles these days. Technology, as Evgeny Morozov proposes, can be a force for improving life – but only if we keep “solutionismin check.

The author of To Save Everything, Click Here: The Folly of Technological Solutionism describes the ideology of solutionism as being essential to helping Silicon Valley maintain its image. For example:  Continue reading

Self-tracking tech revolution? Not so fast…

When the report called Tracking for Health was released last month, media headlines announced:

“Over Two-Thirds Track Health Indicators!”

This statistic, borrowed from the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project’s report, referred to the 69 per cent of people who say they keep track of things like their weight, exercise, heart rate, food, stress or other health indicators. It also, however, includes almost half of self-reporting trackers who, according to Pew’s Susannah Fox, track these health indicators for themselves or others  – but only in their heads.

Surprisingly, very few headlines ran the real news from the report:

“Only 21% Use Technology to Self-Track!”  Continue reading

When does mindfulness become mind-numbing?

Dr. James Beckerman  is a cardiologist with the Providence Heart and Vascular Institute in Portland, Oregon.

And he’s also a jock. He serves as the Vice-Chair of the Oregon Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, as well as the team cardiologist for the Portland Timbers major league soccer team.

In a recent article, he tells the sad story of the time the running watch that tracked his regular runs stopped connecting to his computer.  Continue reading

Does knowing change behaving?

“Skate to where the puck is going.”  That’s a common expression here in Canada, largely attributed to hockey great Wayne Gretsky.  It basically says if you want to accomplish something, go directly to where it will really count. Or, as I like to translate that advice for the benefit of all you Silicon Valley start-ups working away on developing yet another new self-tracking health app: “For Pete’s sake, go find some Real Live Patients to talk (and listen) to first before you decide where you’re going!”

And as one sage pondered on Twitter:

“Why do we think self-tracking devices will work when mirrors and bathroom scales have so far failed?”

Speaking of Real Live Patients, here’s one who contacted me in response to a recent blog post I wrote about health apps for smartphones: Continue reading

The Quantified Self meets The Urban Datasexual

Lately, I’ve been writing about the Quantified Self movement on my other site, Heart Sisters. Usually this mention is merely in passing as I’m exploring what separates the average plugged-in person and the Quantified Selfers’ “worried well” tracking of everything they think, or do, or think about doing.
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Committed (or self-absorbed) Quantified Selfers regularly use their computers, smartphones, electronic gadgets or simply pen and paper to record work, sleep, exercise, diet, mood, sweat, caffeine, memories, social  habits, sexual activity and pretty well anything else that’s trackable in life.  Continue reading