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What is Personal Science to us?

Updated: Sep 9, 2020

In this post, we describe our approach to personal science.

Personal science is defined as the process of “addressing personal questions with empirical methods” (Wolf & De Groot, 2020)

Though this personal science approach was popularized by the “Quantified Self” movement that began in 2008, the human desire to understand the “self” has likely been around since the beginning of consciousness.

Thanks to innovations in technology, individuals have access to data collection and management tools never seen before or even imagined. In fact, we live in a culture that has monetized personal data and has used it for political, social, and advertisement purposes. Particularly, the wearable industry has grown exponentially and opened the door to the collection of massive amounts of individualized data.

As a collective, we have embraced the power of scientific and marketing research. Yet, how many of us think about using these data tools to understand and improve our day to day lives? 

The technological potential to collect and analyze data is so vast, but we are still limited by our human mind. Our mind has attentional, memory, and emotional limitations. We can only process small amounts of information at a time, and we use shortcuts and biases to make sense of our world (this is likely especially true of our “self-perceptions”). Additionally, we can easily feel overwhelmed by too much information and unable to see its value.

Imagine typing “healthy diets” or “healthy habits” on an online search engine, it can bring up millions of sites with opposing perspectives and methods.

How do we know what works for us?

Our vision for personal science is not about collecting as much data or information as we possibly can with the use of technology; it is about engaging in the scientific process to design the collection and analysis of our data in a way that is meaningful to each of us. This process allows our data to tell us stories about what we need, and what will be effective in helping us achieve our goals.

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