Tools for Self-Awareness
February 19, 2009 10:08 AM   Subscribe

Please help me brainstorm: how can technology be used to increase, otherwise augment,or lead to greater self-awareness in the real (non-virtual) world? I'm putting together a presentation around what I perceive to be a growing trend in Human Computer Interaction: systems that help us to become more self-aware, or at least help us to understand the hidden consequences of choices that were once invisible. I'm particularly interested in the area of personal health and wellness but I'm not parochial in this respect.

I'm still exploring this idea, but I believe that we see some examples of this wellness applications like Nike+, Wii Fit, in goal-tracking applications, in most anything which encourages the user to become more self-aware or self-actualized, especially in terms of making and living up to conscious choices.

Can you help me flesh this idea out? Either through providing examples of what you see are pieces in the puzzle, real-world examples of what has personally helped or not, and other things I may be missing in this theme.

All comments, even tangential, are appreciated.
posted by anelsewhere to Technology (13 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Technology is a mode by which we have access to innumerable subjects, topics, and interests. The same way access to a library would lead to greater self-awareness, technology does with a wider array of possibilities (although you might become self aware that you really like low brow humor and porn... um... I mean have an addictive personality).

I think you should look into what is termed Web 2.0 or The Read, Write web. It basically is the concept/practice of interactive content. Like I'm leaving a comment. I'm interacting with this page instead of just reading it.

Another example is, I use their Daily Mood Tracker so I can see if there are any patterns to what bothers me or makes me happy. With that information, I can have more control over my moods.

Also look at Lifehacker, a great, fun productivity blog that is partially about achieving your goals, among other things. Think about the concept of "hacking" your life using technology and you'll find more than you need there.
posted by CoralAmber at 10:33 AM on February 19, 2009

Some keywords that may help in your searching: "ambient informatics" and "personal informatics".
posted by dyobmit at 10:46 AM on February 19, 2009

How do you conceptualize self-awareness?
posted by k8t at 11:08 AM on February 19, 2009

Artificial intelligence to teach meditation:

Episode 103: Building a Dharma Successor

The full series:
Episode 102: Shinzen Young: The Hybrid Teacher
Episode 103: Building a Dharma Successor
Episode 104: Enlightenment for the Rest of Us


Sciral Consistency


Anki and the million other and long history of flashcard applications
posted by zeek321 at 11:14 AM on February 19, 2009 -- Kevin Kelly -- "Tools for Knowing Your Own Mind and Body"
posted by zeek321 at 11:15 AM on February 19, 2009

Response by poster: Reaction to specific points in comments:

Web 2.0 , Read / Write web. I would argue that it is not really necessary to publish content for others if the goal is NOT communicative. I can use any number of Web 2.0 sites without leading to more self-awareness, it is designed for many-to-many communication not necessarily making implicit themes apparent.

MedHelp on the other hand is an interesting example.

Anki: SuperMemo, Mnemosyne, agreed. Though the goal is not to master or remember outside material per se. SuperMemo does have a "Task List' now. But I still can use Anki etc without it helping me become more self-aware.

The quantified self: on-topic and a good example supporting the idea.
posted by anelsewhere at 11:52 AM on February 19, 2009

Google is my eidetic memory.
posted by mkultra at 11:55 AM on February 19, 2009

I intend to use fMRI (and hopefully other neuroimaging tools) to study the neural correlates of self-awareness. There are folks out there doing work on what goes on in the brain during empathy, perspective taking, self-appraisals, and meditation. You can look at a lot of these issues through the lens of social neuroscience. Feel free to MeMail me if you're interested in any specifics.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 12:15 PM on February 19, 2009

This is not exactly what you asked, but this article from today's Globe and Mail on "self-trackers" might be of interest. Also, the blogmentioned therein: . There are other tracking web sites also, so you may want to check out the article.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 5:04 PM on February 19, 2009

Well, I use Remember The Milk on my iphone, and I tell ya what, the last time I opened it, following a thought process that went pretty much like, "Hey, Remember The Milk icon! Gee, I was organising my whole life with that app, but I haven't even opened it in a few weeks!" I definitely got some greater awareness of how slack I was being from all my due dates being bright red and two weeks in the past...
posted by springbound at 5:38 PM on February 19, 2009

You know how, when you go into a business, and they have a video monitor by the door that just shows you walking through the door?

posted by Sys Rq at 5:48 PM on February 19, 2009

Not to get too meta, but I think AskMe is a good example of technology helping people become more self-aware.

The great thing about a teacher is that a good teacher can offer new perspectives on your situation. AskMe elicits specific perspectives from hundreds of teachers and organizes them in a way that makes it easy to contrast (conflicting advice in the same thread!) and look for corroboration (nthing).

By reading a wide variety of AskMes, I've learned new perspectives on exercise, nutrition, relationships, money, creative practice, and ethical questions. All of this is supplemented by things I find by googling and conversations in real life, of course, but I've found AskMe especially well suited for helping me learn new ways of looking at particular things that are part of my real life.
posted by kristi at 11:37 AM on February 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I found another article on WSJ from December 08 that emphasizes the memory aspect of the self-tracking 'movement'
posted by anelsewhere at 3:10 PM on February 24, 2009

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