Context

This sketch evolved from the mindfulness research stream, while reading Ellen Langer’s Counter Clockwise. Langer describes how, “although we recognize on some level that the world around us is always changing, we are oblivious to the fact that we mindlessly hold it still.” This, I believe, is a consequence of our inherent pattern-making mechanisms that I’ve described before. Langer goes on to state simply, “When we are mindful, we notice.” She also alludes to a potential antidote:

“Attention to variability in our wants, needs, talents, and skills can result in the greater well-being we seek. Holding things still because we think we know leads us figuratively and literally to be blind to what needs improvement. A small growth, a change in breathing, a change in the color of our urine—these things too often go unnoticed unless the change is blatant. When we do notice the change, sometimes we don’t want to confront it because we feel helpless. But these are signs that something needs attention. And the signs—the first change—appear much sooner than is now recognized.”

If we can become more mindful of the changes in our body’s signs, we can potentially sustain better health by taking measures early to avoid illness.

Sketch

To this end, I created a way to amplify my body’s feedback system. Using a new Facebook account as an archiving tool, I synced an assortment of digital recorders so that they would automatically publish my actions and status. Much to Facebook’s persistence, I denied every solicitation to invite friends, leaving myself as the only person in my network, so as to avoid the inevitable desire to perform. Sensors include Fitbit and Runkeeper for recording my exercise, a Withings scale for weight, the Modula Instant Heart Rate iphone app, Twitter for mood, and photos combined with Foursquare for relating meals and events to locations. In essence I was living a digital Feltron report with an emphasis on automation.

Fig. The blank canvas

Results

My first observation was that it was difficult for me to remember to make the recordings that were not automatic (such as the photographs). At the same time, the act of documentation had an immediate influence on my awareness, especially on consumption and mood. Try taking a photo of everything you eat and drink for a day and I promise you will experience a similar phenomenon. The act of recording my mood, like a real-time journal, forced me to reflect on my emotional state.

I recently enrolled a friend in the same exercise, and have yet to hear her experience.

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