Up Next? Quantified Communities

Following a great UDD team effort and the DESIGNxNYC exhibition of NYELI (our data driven re-design of a NYC Public School Tray Alternative) we’ ve come to realize how particular communities like a typical NYC Public School record, measure and share student interactions is quite useful in building a community.  In the context of a school these interactions range from student to teacher, student to student and student to environment.  Each of these are measured in the familiar sense of performance evaluations, otherwise known as report cards, both students and facilities receive them.  Our time spent evaluating students and their interaction with each other, food and the lunch room environment for the NYELI project provided us with insight into the opportunity of “Quantified Communities”.  Can the successful self measuring of one’s community expand knowledge of that community and ultimately create positive management and progressive change?

At the start of 2013 Forbes questioned weather 2013 would be the year of the Quantified Self.  The Quantified Self is a movement where individuals are equipped with sensors and tools (monitoring devices and software) needed to measure their own health and behavior.

The Measured Life

The Measured Life

The move toward self surveillance and technology providing the means to now hold oneself accountable to personal health and well-being holds great potential not just for individuals but for communities as well.  Undoubtedly this will have some impact on the continuing US healthcare debate, however for us working in the trenches healthy communities not only means healthy individuals but healthy environments to support those individuals.  This is reflective of what we observed and learned in the school environment.

The current devices Nike+ FuelBand, Fitbit, Jawbone etc.and apps supporting the QS phenomenon are in my modest estimation is a great foray into the future of QS,  (in full disclosure I own and am currently trying to hack my own fitbit).  The Quantified Community on the other hand is less about the individual and more about the collective, whereas in this case network-centric devices and apps would provide the platform for communities to gather data, insight and act on the data accordingly.  We are already seeing this in the QS field where fitness teams are developing around the concept of combining progress data of groups competing against one another.  Its here where we could really begin to see if gamification can also play a role in incentivizing groups and communities to work collectively around common goals.

Another thing we learned in our musings on the subject of QC is that they exist simultaneously as location based communities, ones that share a common geographic location and non location based, ones that share common interest, goals, kinship etc.  This is an important point in recognizing the potential of QC as it pertains to creating the tools for its evolution.  In our own experimentation at ITP Camp (highly recommended btw) we’re working on a small experimental project of wireless networked of sensors that can communicate with each other whereby the exchanged data could easily be used not only to monitor the real-time health of individuals but the health of an environment, everything from group health, employment data, to air quality etc.  This is just the beginning, for we see in the possibility of one, even greater possibility in the many.

Experimenting with XBee / Arduino Distributed Network Sensors at ITP Camp

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