Calm Technology on the Radical Therapist Podcast!

Ever since the NPR Ted Talks radio episode came out, I’ve been invited to be on a number of different podcasts. Podcasts are one of my favorite things to do, so I almost always say yet!

Two days ago, I was a guest of Chris Hoff on the The Radical Therapist podcast. The show explores the intersections of collaborative therapy, psychology, philosophy, art, and science & technology.

In this episode, Hoff interviews me about Cyborg Anthropology and the view that most of modern human life is a product of both human and non-human objects, and how we interact with machines and technology in many ways defines who we are.

We also talk about the principles of Calm Technology and the idea that technology should require the smallest amount of our attention.

You can listen to more interviews on the Radical Therapist website!

O’Reilly Webcast on Cyborg Anthropology

On August 5, 2010 I gave an hour-long webcast called Cyborg Anthropology: A Short Introduction. The event was free and had roughly 500 signups. It was a really fun way to quickly share a lot of the concepts I’ve been thinking about for the past few years. A lot of it was condensing down a lot of what I’ve begun to explore on CyborgAnthropology.com. I’ll be giving a 20 minute version of this speech at a TED conference in December. You can also watch the webcast at O’Reilly.com. The webcast is 60 minutes long. Start 5 minutes in for best results (the first part is an audio check).

Webcast Summary

Cyborg Anthropology is a way of understanding how we live as technosocially connected citizens in the modern era. Our cell phones, cars and laptops have turned us into cyborgs. What does it mean to extend the body into hyperspace? What are the implications to privacy, information and the formation of identity? Now that we have a second self, how do we protect it? This presentation will cover aspects of time and space compression, communication in the mobile era, evaporating interfaces and how to approach a rapidly changing information spaces.

A Short History of Cyborg Anthropology

Haraway proposed what she termed a “cyborg anthropology” to study the relation between the machine and the human, and she adds that it should proceed by “provocatively” reconceiving “the border relations among specific humans, other organisms, and machines”

Based on this essay, and many other instances of needing a methodology to understand and describe rapidly changing sociocultural systems affected by technology, the idea of a “Cyborg Anthropology” was proposed at the Annual Meetings of the American Anthropological Association (AAA) in 1993.

What is a Cyborg Anthropologist?

A cyborg anthropologist looks at how humans and non human objects interact with each other, and how that changes culture. So, for instance, we have these objects in our pockets that cry, and we have to pick them up and soothe them back to sleep, and then we have to feed them every night by plugging them into the wall. At no other time in history have we had these really strange non human devices that we take care of as if they are real, and we’re very dependent upon them. That’s one of the aspects that I’m studying; the idea of mobile technology and its effect on one’s relationships. Another aspect of cyborg anthropology is the idea of individuals extending themselves into a second self in the online space, through a Facebook page, avatar or profile. Studying how people interact with each other through these little technosocial interactions, versus just the analog interactions, is another aspect of cyborg anthropology.

Cyborg Anthropology vs. Traditional Anthropology

What happens in traditional, analog anthropology is this: You go to another culture, and you look at all the people.  You see how they interact with each other, how knowledge is created and so on. You see kinship, you see rituals, you see all these different pastimes and hobbies. You see what people eat. And often the anthropologist goes over to another country and says, “Oh, look how fascinating these people are. They’re so strange. Look at all their weird customs. Look at how different they are from us!” There is this definite aspect of the other, of going out and studying something else. But the problem is that many people are not studying world that they live in right now, their own culture. There are a few anthropologists who have begun to really study the effects of technology on everyday life. It is the study of this everyday life that offers the most insight.

Call phones have become so ubiquitous that they no cause one to think about them. One does not think about having a cell phone or not having one – one’s time is spent choosing which external prosthetic device they are going to be using next.  Facebook has become very normal. Twitter has become quite normal. Cell phones have become very normal. So my job as an anthropologist is of someone that comes in and says, “Oh my God, how fascinating. Look at all these strange things people do. They’re posting on each other’s Walls. They’re editing each other’s external online selves. Their identity is increasingly made up of text and points and technosocial interactions.” What I do as a Cyborg Anthropologist is take the traditional anthropological toolset and apply those tools and methodologies to the digital space. I’m always trying to take both the embodied and thousand foot view, because it allows me to ask questions such as “What is really going on?”, “What’s next in technological development?”, and “Has anything actually changed with the onset of technology, or are people just bringing offline behaviors to the online space?

More on Cyborgs and Anthropology

Cyborg Anthropology Wiki
If you liked this webcast and want to learn more about cyborgs and Cyborg Anthropology, you might want to look at CyborgAnthropology.com, a site still very much in development as I stitch my research together from the past 7 years of study.

CyborgCamp Portland


If you happen to live in Portland (or need an excuse to visit) and like cyborgs, you should come to CyborgCamp Portland on Oct. 2nd, 2010. It’s a hybrid unconference on the future of humans and machines. We’ll be talking about cyborgs, interface design, government, transportation, science, anthropology and humanity from 9Am-6Pm. Tickets are exceedingly cheap ($10) and you can get one now if you’d like.

50th Anniversary of the term “Cyborg”

Also, September 2010 is the 50th Anniversary of the coining of the term ‘cyborg’. Over the next month, the site 50 Cyborgs, Curated by Tim Maly of Quiet Babylon (another site on Cyborgs that’s worth a good long look), will update 50 times with links to material celebrating 50 years of one of the 20th Century’s more enduring concepts. Then it’ll go dark. I highly suggest reading it before it disappears. But if you miss it, you can always check it out on Archive.org.

—-

About

Amber Case is a Cyborg Anthropologist and UX Designer from Portland, Oregon. You can read more about her here, and you can follow her on Twitter @caseorganic.

Geoloqi and GPS Data Viz at RECESS Gallery – July 14, 2010

Social_Net_Works: A Hybrid Art Show About Networks and Technology

On Wednesday, July 14th, RECESS gallery will have a show called Social_Net_Works. Social_Net_Works will look at projects spanning mediums and approaches that all deal with social networking and technology. Aaron Parecki and I will be showing some of the GPS data we’ve gathered in the past 1-2 years, some of it as a result of an open source mobile GPS tracker we’re building called Geoloqi.

Social_Net_Works at Recess Gallery Wednesday, July 14, 2010

There will be four other artists presenting social network related art. One artist, Alicia Gordon, is presenting a series of photographs staged from “Casual Encounters” ads on Craigslist. Another artist is doing a performance piece “Best Friend for Ten Minutes,” a project stemming from his “Best Friends for a Day” that began as a service offered on the web for strangers to respond to.

Social_Net_Works

Date: Wednesday, July 14, 2010
Time: 6:00pm – 9:00pm
Location: RECESS Gallery
Address: 4315 SE Division St., Portland, OR
Map
Blog: http://recesspdx.blogspot.com
Twitter: http://twitter.com/recesspdx

The Show

We’ll have five pieces up, including four  views of GPS data over time (one being the image of 10 million GPS points presented at Research Club). Each piece will have a 16″ by 20″ printed board explaining each map. The pieces will be a mix of portrait and landscape views. The images will include two years’ worth of Aaron Parecki’s GPS data and six months of my data.


Aaron Parecki’s GPS map: two years of data (color-coded by speed).

Aaron Parecki's GPS Logs from 2008-2010


Amber Case’s GPS map: six months of data (color-coded by time of day).

Amber Case's GPS Logs from January 2010 to June 2010

In addition, there will be a  video of Aaron Parecki’s GPS trails animated over time. It will cycle through a visualization of 10 million GPS points.

Digital Self-Portraits

Tori Abernathy, the show’s organizer, brought up a good points. GPS maps can be used as a sort of self portrait. In a sense, they already are (at least in terms of location). She mentioned The one that Aaron showed with a cluster in the NW of small black lines and with thicker, more colorful, fewer lines in the more far reaching parts of town, really hearkened to neural connections, or the cardiovascular system, or tree branches or something like that to me. Aside from that, she said, they still seemed to reveal a lot about a person. She concluded be mentioning her interest in working with them in a more historical self portrait medium like paint.

Weaving GPS into Fabric

Curiously enough, I was contacted by another artist, one that deals with textiles, a few days later. She said that she loved the idea of GPS portraits and wanted to stitch GPS trails into fabric. It will be curious to send her a couple of GPS images and see what she produces.

Visualizing Ten Million Points of GPS Data

Aaron Parecki's 10 Million GPS Points

This is 10 million GPS points plotted onto a map. It is also a portrait of Aaron Parecki’s life in Portland, Oregon. The dark lines represent slow speeds, and the red lines represent fast speeds. Through this map it is easy to see the relative highways and speeds of traffic present in Portland.

Boost Mobile Phone Running Instamapper GPS

Amber Case’s Boost Mobile Phone running Instamapper, sending data every 30 seconds.

Windows Mobile Phone Running Tracker.eu

Aaron Parecki’s Windows Mobile Phone running Tracker.eu, updating at 6 second intervals.

Aaron Parecki - Tour of Pittsburgh

Aaron Parecki visited Pittsburg, Pennsylvania with his friend Silas, resulting in the following GPS maps. Silas rented a Zipcar, so they were able to cover a lot of ground.

Tracking in New York

But when Aaron visited Manhattan, the GPS data became sparse. The tall building threw off the GPS and made it difficult to get a fix. Also, the GPS was not able to get a fix while underground. Thus, Aaron’s GPS data looks pretty spotty for Manhattan, with little squiggles popping up just at the points where he went above ground.

GPS in Manhatten Aaron Parecki

Mine were not much better, as you can see below.

Amber Case's GPS Trails in Manhatten

The big splash of gray next to Chelsea represents the period of time sleeping and the day I got sick. Aaron turns his tracker on only when he changes location, while I tend to leave my GPS tracker when I’m not moving. When this happens, the data points continue to pile up, revealing the amount of time I spent in a location.

Caseorganic's GPS Trail During the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver BC.

I took my Boost Mobile Phone to the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, BC and got some pretty good data. I stayed within the same 10-15 block area the entire time. Everything was walking distance, and I used no form of transportation the entire time, from the moment I got to Vancouver at the train station, to the moment I went home.

Using GPS Tracking for Geonotes

In addition to mapping out our paths with GPS-enabled phones, we have the ability to be sent Geonotes. Geonotes are a form of virtual geocaching. One can walk around the city and suddenly get a message that someone left before. They’ve been very fun to receive and write. My favorite one was from Don Park. He left it for me right on the Hawthorne bridge. When I passed over the bridge, I got a text message that told me a bit of trivia about the bridge. He left me another one on Mt. Tabor, telling me where the best berries were. It provided an Easter Egg like feeling of serendipity.

Leave Amber Case (Caseorganic) a Geonote

Leave a Geonote for Amber Case at http://caseorganic.com/geonote!

Leave Aaron Parecki (aaronpk) a Geonote!

Leave a Geonote for Aaron Parecki at http://aaron.pk/geonote!

Everyone that runs Geoloqi will be able to send and receive Geonotes. Right now, it’s simply more complicated to do, as we’ve been using Instamapper and Tracker.eu to gather GPS data. Geoloqi will enable almost anyone will a mobile device to easily participate in GPS tracking.

Tracking GPS Data with Geoloqi on the iPhone

iPhone 3GS App Running Geoloqi on iOS4

Here you can see the settings screen for Geoloqi on iPhone. The sliders can easily be changed depending on what type of data you want to record. For instance, Aaron Parecki takes data every six seconds, resulting in very high resolution maps. However, this is difficult on his phone battery. When I run Geoloqi, I have it set to update far less, which makes me only have to charge the battery twice per day – once in the afternoon, and again at night. The data is still high enough resolution to see an overall view of where I’ve been, as you can see in the maps of Portland and Eugene above.

Amber Case's Profile on Geoloqi.com

Tracking Data with Geoloqi

Two months ago, we built a Geoloqi prototype for iPhone iOS4 and installed it on my phone. Suddenly the resolution of the data that I was able to gather greatly increased. As you can see in the map below, the data is much more regular and less jumpy. This was because I was able to send data from the phone to the server at much smaller intervals.

Portland GPS Logs from June 28th-July 6th, 2010

This data was made using the Geoloqi app I have running on my iPhone 3GS. It runs in the background, so I can still do other things on my phone while tracking. As it tends to eat the battery, I have it set on the lowest settings possible. The resolution of data is still very good, as you can see here. The loop near Naito Pkwy is very high resolution, for instance.

GPS Logs from a Weekend Trip to Eugene, Oregon

I also took my phone to Eugene, which has a very different interaction footprint than Portland has. As I don’t live in Eugene, my patterns there were very different than Portland. My Portland footprint looks very much the same over time. I go home, and then to work. If I’m not there, I’m usually at my office in Chinatown. Eugene was a vacation-like trip, so the interactions with the landscape were quite different.

Aaron Parecki's Flight from San Francisco to Long Beach

Aaron runs his GPS tracker while on the plane, too. He has GPS data for all of the flights he’s taken for the last two years. Here’s the GPS trail of a flight from San Francisco to Long Beach.

Show Information: Date, Time and Location

Social_Net_Works at RECESS Gallery

Date: Wednesday, July 14, 2010
Time: 6:00pm – 9:00pm
Location: RECESS Gallery
Street: 4315 SE Division St.
City/Town: Portland, OR
Map
Blog: http://recesspdx.blogspot.com
Twitter: http://twitter.com/recesspdx

About RECESS Gallery

RECESS is an artist-run center located in the ground level of the Artistery, in Portland, Oregon. The 2,000-square-foot space is dedicated to nurturing emergent, experimental contemporary practices in a universally accessible environment. With a focus on content-oriented work, RECESS hopes to foster new forms of cultural development, and spark a discourse of change within the art community and the community at large. In conjunction with the Artistery, we’re is not limited to curatorial projects. Public lectures, workshops, shows, and other community-based events are all welcome.

Amber Case and Aaron Parecki Jump for Geoloqi

About Amber Case

Amber Case is a Cyborg Anthropologist and interface architect from Portland, Oregon. She studies the interaction between humans and computers and how our relationship with information is changing the way cultures think, act, and understand their worlds. Her main focus is on mobile software, augmented reality and data visualization, as these reduce the amount of time and space it takes for people to connect with information. Case founded Geoloqi.com out of a frustration with existing social protocols around text messaging and wayfinding. In 2008, Case founded CyborgCamp, an unconference on the future of humans and computers. To attend, visit http://portland.cyborgcamp.com/.

You can learn more about Case at www.cyborganthropology.com, and you can follow her on twitter at @caseorganic.

About Aaron Parecki

Aaron Parecki is a Portland-based PHP developer and GPS enthusiast. His fascination with GPS began at the age of 6, when he began tracing the routes of family road trips on a map with a highlighter. This interest has grown into groundbreaking new methods of location sharing and data collection.

Two years ago, Parecki began tracking GPS data at six second intervals, netting him a high resolution portrait of his geographical travels. Shortly thereafter, he began to experiment with automatic location check-ins and proximal notification systems. He also began using GPS to control the lights in his house and perform other automated actions.

Parecki founded Geoloqi.com in an effort to make GPS tracking and advanced co-location protocols available to the general public. You can learn more about Aaron at www.aaronparecki.com, and you can follow him on twitter at @aaronpk.

Follow @geoloqi on Twitter!

You Should Follow @Geoloqi on Twitter!

Just click on the friendly dinosaur! His name is Loqi. He’ll tell you when Geoloqi for iPhone, Android, Blackberry and Palm are ready. And if you want to be a beta tester or help us develop it, simply head on over to Geoloqi.com!

CyborgCamp Seattle is Around the Corner! – Sunday, July 18th, 2010


CyborgCamp Seattle

CyborgCampSeattle will take place on Sunday, July 18, from 10Am to 6Pm at Jigsaw Renaissance (1026 Madison Street) in Seattle, WA. Tickets are $15 and are now available! Get CyborgCamp Seattle 2010 tickets here!

CyborgCamp Seattle Tickets on Sale Now!

A very curious preparty will likely be held the night before. Details will be sent after your ticket is purchased. A max of 50 tickets will be sold – your spot is not guaranteed until you receive and respond to the confirmation e-mail. E-mail will include details for payment and retrieval of ticket.

The $15 covers food during the event. You’d likely spend that much hunting for food in the morning and during lunchtime, so CyborgCamp Seattle is graciously providing that food on-site!

Follow @cyborgcampsea on Twitter for more details!

Conference Venue

The venue for CyborgCamp Seattle will be at Jigsaw Renaissance, located at 1026 Madison Avenue in Seattle’s First Hill. Jigsaw is CyborgCamp’s first sponsor, and has opened up its doors for free to CyborgCamp.

It’s a gorgeous space just now being settled into. It has high ceilings, huge windows, and will comfortably seat CyborgCamp attendees. While parking is sparse, it is free on Sundays and there are parking lots nearby. Within blocks you can find a convenience store, Sugar Bakery, The Hideout, pho, The Corner Cafe, and many other venues.

Wait a Second! What is CyborgCamp?

CyborgCamp is an unconference about the future of the relationship between humans and technology. We’ll discuss topics such as social media, design, code, inventions, web 2.0, twitter, the future of communication, cyborg technology, anthropology, psychology, biohacking, cybernetics and circuity.

CyborgCamp was conceived almost entirely on Twitter and organized via wiki. Much of the buzz was generated through multiple media channels. It’s a BarCamp style event meant for learning and teaching.

Featured CyborgCamp Talks

Ian Hanschen is a cyborg bent on world-domination. He has the jack to prove it. Come hear how he went from single-sided deafness to stereo hearing in the normal hearing range in both ears.  Then hear his plans on world domination! You can see Ian’s work and thoughts at Escape Hatch Labs. We’re excited to have Ian at CyborgCamp Seattle!

Other CyborgCamp Talks

Since CyborgCamp is a hybrid unconference operating under open space technology, there will be few formal speeches. For instance, I’ll be giving an open talk on Cyborg Anthropology, and attendees are more than welcome to hold concurrent sessions during that time. The session will be part presentation, part discussion, and part analysis. Comments, deconstructionist thoughts and debates are welcomed. Help be a part of a new and evolving field of study.

Ready to go? You’d better be! It’s next weekend! Got your tickets yet? There are only 50 available and they’re going fast!

What’s Open Space Technology?

  1. A broad, open invite to everyone to submit ideas and sessions.
  2. Seats for everyone, and multiple rooms for different sessions and types of content.
  3. A bulletin board of topics and items of interest, proposed sessions and ideas posted by participants.
  4. A marketplace with many breakout spaces that participants move freely between, learning and contributing as they discover and absorb new information and ideas.
  5. A breathing pattern of flow, between primary and small-group breakout sessions, providing a relaxing yet engaging self-directed learning environment for attendees.

But I Live in Portland! What about CyborgCamp Portland?

CyborgCamp Portland is still a few months away! You didn’t miss it, we’ve yet to plan it! However, we do have a date and a location: Saturday October 2, 2010 from 9:00am – 6:00pm at Webtrends! If you’d like to sign up as a volunteer or help out, join us at the CyborgCamp Portland 2010 wiki! We’ll have volunteer meetings again in a few weeks.

CyborgCamp Portland Saturday October 2, 2010 from 9:00am – 6:00pm

For now, follow @cyborgcamp on Twitter.

See you in Portland or Seattle!

About

Amber Case is a Cyborg Anthropologist from Portland, Oregon. She founded CyborgCamp in 2008 and is excited to plan the next Portland event. If you have questions about CyborgCamp or want to start your own, please contact her on Twitter @caseorganic.

Track Your Happiness Survey Results, The Quantified Self, and Emotional Feedback Loops

TrackYourHappiness.org is a research project that investigates what makes life worth living. It was created as part of Matt Killingsworth’s doctoral research at Harvard University. I found the project while browsing the Internet one night and decided to sign up. Here are my results:

Track Your Happiness Results for Amber Case

How does it work?

Once you sign up for TrackYourHappiness, you get asked some preliminary questions for statistical purposes. This takes about 10 minutes. Then you get sent 50 survey requests over the next month or so. Completing them gives you a picture of your happiness levels over time, as well as a number of other pieces of data that relate to happiness. The questions often asked me about how much sleep I had received the night before, or if I was talking with anyone.

I was able decide when and how often I wanted to be notified. I opted for survey prompts to be sent to me at random intervals, three times a day, to report how I was feeling and what I was doing.Because I knew I would never complete the survey if I was sent survey prompts by E-mail, I opted for SMS, eventually switching to Direct Messages from Twitter. The direct messages ended up working out the best. I received direct messages from @trackhappiness on Twitter 3 times a day, and filled them out over a period of 3 months, starting in April and ending today, July 1st.

Even with Twitter notifications, I should’ve finished sooner. 50 samples should only take half a month or so, assuming 3 are sent completed per day. However, the surveys were quite long and rather repetitive, each of them often taking 3-5 minutes to complete. I became rather fatigued of the project at the end of May, which resulted in my skipping 126 survey prompts. I let the prompts run their course on my phone through the entire month of June before I decided to break down and fill out the rest of them. That was two weeks ago. I’m finally done.

Productivity and Happiness

Track Your Happiness - Productivity vs. Happiness

My initial hypothesis was that I would be the happiest while being the most productive.

The results seem to imply, and I also noticed this while filling out survey results, that I am often tired while being very productive. Thus, high levels of productivity don’t always make me completely happy.

Additionally, productivity is tiring, so my happiness is dependent upon how I feel physically. Sometimes I’m happiest while doing everything I can *not* to be productive.

Happiness: Outside vs. Inside

Track Your Happiness - Outside vs. Inside

I found that I’m pretty much the same outside as I am while inside. (Caveat 1: I reported being outside while I was in a vehicle. Caveat 2: This survey was taken in the spring/summer, where being outside is generally awesome).

Happiness vs. Want To, Have To; Don’t Have To; Don’t Want To

Track Your Happiness - Tasks: Want To vs. Don't Want To

These results seemed a bit obvious, thought I expected that I’d be happier when doing things I wanted to do, but didn’t have to do. Instead, I reported being slightly happier doing things I wanted to do and had to do, vs. wanted to do, but didn’t have to do. And of course, I wasn’t as happy to do things I both didn’t want to do as well as didn’t have to do.

One item is missing here – the Don’t Want To, Have To. I guess I never responded with anything I didn’t want to do, but Had to Do.

Focus and Happiness

Track Your Happiness - Focus and Happiness

I’m very unhappy when I’m having a fragmented thought process, and the happiest when I’m fully focused on something. This could also be related to productivity.

Happiness: Amount of Sleep and Sleep Quality

Track Your Happiness - Amount of Sleep, Quality of Sleep

One night I got 18 hours of sleep. I forgot what night that was, but it must have been after waking up at 4 for a early morning flight to San Francisco, and getting back late at night. Who knows? Regardless, I was not very happy after I woke up. Oversleeping is not something I enjoy very much.

Other than that, as long as I get 7-10 hours of sleep, I’m pretty much fine. For some odd reason, I never took the survey after 5 or 4 hours of sleep. Those amounts always make me unhappy. My brain won’t cogitate correctly the next day because it hasn’t had enough REM time to defragment itself to make room for new ideas. Oh well.

Happiness: Being Alone vs. Being With Others

Track Your Happiness - Being Alone, Interacting with Others

I consistently talked to a similar variety of people over time, and my happiness was about the same. The only reason I might not have been as happy when talking with friends might have been due to the context of the conversation.

Often, friends let on more personal information than acquaintances might. An acquaintance, for instance, might be more concerned with keeping a situation upbeat and not diving into complex or potentially unsettling issues, stories, or problems. I don’t think I really encountered any of that, no do I on a normative basis. However, if my level happiness around friends were significantly lower than with the other types of people, I would suspect that this might be the case.

Happiness vs. Activity

Track Your Happiness - Happiness vs. Activity

Most of these responses were given during the time when I was moving into a new place. My favorite activity is, and may always be, writing on a white board. I was the least happy when I was “relaxing”. I typically don’t relax. Rather, my body forces myself to take a break. To me, relaxing is sleep. I try to get a lot of it. When I’m awake, I try to get things done.

Conclusions

Now that the survey is over, it’s nice to have this data. If I were to do this again (and I might in 6 months), I would probably not use this interface. I’d rather build my own, and then run correlative tests in the background to net useful outcomes, not outcomes that were almost completely obvious upon answering the daily questions.

An amusing side-effect of being finished is that I keep getting phantom notifications. I think that I’m getting a direct message from @trackyourhappiness with a request for data. I won’t be getting them anymore.

Pros

This survey did one very good thing: it caused me to consider my happiness quite a bit. I was very aware every day of all of my thoughts and actions. I wanted to predict what the results would be, even though it was quite obvious what the were going to be. I found that it was pretty simple to control my happiness. Also, I realized that I’m a generally happy person because I have artificially constructed an automatic feedback loop that reinforces positive environmental conditions.

For instance, sleep quality showed some pretty good results. Of course I was unhappy with a sleep quality of 0 or 30. These results are quite obvious. 100% sleep quality pretty much always meant a pretty high level of happiness.

Which means I’m a pretty simple creature. I’m happy when I’ve had enough sleep and food to eat at regular intervals. Though food was not part of the survey, I’ve been tracking food intake, time, amount and type for the last year. It really matters.

Does this mean that one can architect a feedback loop of good sleep and healthy, regular food intake in order to ensure perfect happiness? Is there a programmatic approach to perfect happiness?

As an avid social experimenter within the game The SIMS, I’ve had a chance to test all of the variables and scenarios that one can have, or be denied, and the effects on one’s happiness due to those things. In the game, one can achieve a 100% happiness level based on a number of factors which include, hunger level, cleanliness, restroom need, social interaction need, surrounding environment (if a SIM is in a messy or badly formed house, they are more likely to be unhappy) and level of rest.

In a way, I would’ve liked this survey to have more of those items. That way, it might have been able to educate people about their dependence on these external effects.

For instance, I moved into a very specific type of living situation because I had programmed it out in the SIMS and saw that it had all of the requisite items for self actualization. It’s more than just sleep quality. One must have an environment that makes quality sleep possible, and a work situation that is not so stressful that it prevents sleep. Elements of the house, commute, food, ect., are all important.

Finally, I thought the project very successful in integrating with Twitter/SMS, because I would never do it if I received an E-mail notification three times a day. SMS/Twitter integration allowed it to meld more smoothly into the processes of my everyday life.


Cons

It left out a lot of things, like the last time I ate, what I ate, how tired I felt, how stressed, ect. These have a lot of bearing on happiness. Sometimes it asked me if I was thinking negative thoughts. If I said yes, it asked me if I could control these thoughts if I wanted to. This was as close as the survey got to getting at some sort of psychological effect determining happiness. The only other things it tracked were location, socialization and sleep. For me, it’s obvious that getting a bad night of sleep affects my happiness.

I’d like to know if my eating habits or times affect my happiness. There’s a lot more that can be gathered here that the survey failed to capture and record.

About

Amber Case, (@caseorganic) is a Cyborg Anthropologist studying the interaction between humans and computers and how our relationship with information is changing the way we think, act, and understand the world around us. She’s obsessed with compressing the space and time it takes to get data from one place to another, especially when the final destination is the mind.