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On Our Radar: Self-Centered Edition

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Okay, we admit it: it’s all about us. From steps to sleep to social activities, we’re counting every kind of personal data you can think of. But what’s all that data add up to? How could we look at it—and ourselves—differently? This week, we’re asking ourselves—and our self—the tough questions. 

My so-called lifelog

While waiting for an invite from gyrosco.pe, which promises to help me lead a healthier and happier life by harnessing my personal data, I started reading about life resource planning: the idea that we can administer every aspect of our lives using our timeline, our life feed, as a tool. LRP isn’t just the lifelogging data gathered by all the apps we use (health, finance, commuting, social graph, etc.). It’s about a user interface to make sense of it—a personal agent telling my story.

This has me thinking, how can I ever reinvent myself if my life feed becomes part of a documented history? The answer seems to lie in the notion of storytelling, becoming active autobiographers ourselves, using the same tools that tell our history, only to tell it better. When people are prompted to “tell a story” rather than state “what’s on their mind,” a character emerges—a qualified self (as opposed to the notion of the quantified self)—that may defy “big” data.

Michelle Kondou, developer

Mirror, mirror

A couple of days ago, I came across dear-data.com, a project by data visualization pros Giorgia Lupi and Stefanie Posavec. Instead of building digital charts and graphs, they’re documenting details of their lives onto handmade postcards—translating quiet moments of the everyday into colors and lines of self-awareness, and reinventing the rules each week. With a flickering edge of whimsy and objectivity, those moments are real life—through a filter.

What I love about Dear Data is that their conditions create new filters; they end up with a different view of themselves each week. Getting out of their usual medium and having to create new ways to tell each story is a tactic for hunting down catalysts. I also like how they went to something so square one: paper and colored pens, no expectations to be fancy, no need for neat lines.

Dear Data has me thinking about how we can all gain momentum from reimagining our digital selves every once in a while—from ditching our habitual means of describing and defining. How I can so easily show myself a new mirror and allow a situation to filter through me—I’d discover a different result each time. Those moments are grounding: they’re a sharp instant of humility, a moment of recognition that you’ll never see anything in the same way again.

Mica McPheeters, submissions and events manager

My birthday, my self

Ah, spring—that special time of year when a young developer’s fancy soon turns to thoughts of lexical scoping, and I’ve got ECMAScript 6 arrow functions on the brain.

Defining a function as usual introduces a new value for the this keyword, meaning we sometimes need to write code like the following:

function Wilto() {
	var self = this;
	self.age = 32;

	setInterval( function constantBirthdays() {
		self.age++;
		console.log( "I am now " + self.age + " years old");
	}, 3000 );
}

Since the meaning of this is going to change inside the constantBirthdays function, we alias the enclosing function’s this value as the variable self—or sometimes as that, depending on your own preference.

Arrow functions will maintain the this value of the enclosing context, however, so we can do away with that variable altogether:

function Wilto() {
	this.age = 32;

	setInterval(() => {
		this.age++;
		console.log( "I am now " + this.age + " years old");
	}, 3000 );
}

Thanks to ES6, we can finally start getting over our selfs.

Mat Marquis, technical editor

A gif about: self(ie) love

President Obama using a selfie stick
Haters gonna hate.

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