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Self-Tracking: A Context Book Report


The concept of self-tracking is interesting and not really  born of the digital age. The Virtual Self: How Our Virtual Lives Are Altering the World Around Us, by Nora Young shows that the  idea of self-tracking is not new, but can be seen in activities like, keeping a diary or daily journal. The author relates that Benjamin Franklin left evidence of tracking his sleep and virtue. Whereas self-tracking in the past was more of a private activity, in today’s digital world it becomes more widely shared and public. The information generated through self-tracking abounds and makes the Web alive with activity that brings into focus the matter and minutiae of everyday life.

There are many reasons to engage in self-tracking; to improve one self, to increase productivity or to show social solidarity. There are also numerous implications of self-tracking for consumer analysis and sustainability. Tracking can also demonstrate trends and provide data for the future. Tracking for self-improvement has a long-standing history of being a successful way of changing behaviors when the data generated is used as a motivator and evidence of change. Young relates that when this happens, it is more about the focus of the data being turned inward by the individual tracking. However, when it is turned outward, the success for the individual becomes less attainable because of the random nature of this data. When we are “liking” something on the Web or Facebook, what other purpose does this tracking do but show opinion…and you know what they say about opinions. This type of information can be useful to consumer tracking endeavors as rating products can provide businesses with ways of providing suggestions for similar purchases. She states that outward tracking is like a perpetual survey.

The implications of self-tracking for the hyperlinked library can be very positive. If libraries allow users to express opinions and act on the consensus, the library can use this data to better serve the needs of their patrons. By collaborating with other online data collections and user-generated preferences, a library can potentially add choices and more access to information for their users. The use of technology and especially mobile devices make connecting with people where they’re at an important part of keeping libraries relevant. We live in a data driven culture and who better to harness relevant data and interpret it for positive results than today’s librarians. See my presentation below:

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