Chasing the Flowers

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After so many years of thinking about it, I finally did it and wrote a book about San Francisco Gentrification process. It was good to collect my thoughts around it. It is a little side track on this website, but it also has to do with technology, so it is not to far off.

It is available on bol.comAmazon.co.uk. On May 1st available on Amazon.com.

Technology continues to rapidly change our lives. In Chasing the Flowers, author Christel De Maeyer focuses on San Francisco, known for Silicon Valley and as a major innovation hub in technology. Technology has brought with it, gentrification: an ever-growing divide between the rich and poor and the disappearance of neighborhoods and a middle class. Citing flowers, an ancient symbol of love and hope, De Maeyer maintains that if technology is used with honesty, transparency and open communication, those “flowers” can continue to blossom. She portrays San Francisco’s quintessential personality with its constant heartbeat of diversity from immigrants who sailed to its shores in the 1800’s to the multiplicity and acceptance still characterizing the city today. San Francisco has nurtured ground-breaking movements from the Beat Generation with its radical poetry and content, the Hippie – make love not war movement, avant-garde magazines promoting a cyber world and smart drugs to today’s techie culture. The major technology industries that call San Francisco home and the techie culture these industries have brought with them pose a threat to the quintessential personality that has characterized San Francisco.  Can wisely utilized technology create well-planned, all-inclusive cities and counteract gentrification? Seek the answers in this book.

First reviews came in:

“Wat een ontzettend mooi boekje heb je gemaakt! Prachtige en treffende citaten gebruik je. En de persoonlijke notes, die hoor ik je ook vertellen. Ik heb het nog niet geheel uit maar weet nu al dat ik een volgend bezoek aan San Francisco heel anders zal beleven.”
Marijke van Benschop

“I enjoyed your book and thought it provided a terrific background on understanding the nature of the tech world and how it impacts San Francisco”.
Mary Stevens – AutoDesk Innovation Gallery San Francisco

Through her foreign eyes, Belgian techie Christel De Maeyer explores the essence of technology’s effect on the social fabric being played out today.  Her focus is rightly on the San Francisco Bay Area where that expanding gap between the haves and have nots, brought on largely by the tech boom, feels most acute.    
Given its history as a destination for dreamers, entrepreneurs, immigrants, visionaries, it’s no coincidence that San Francisco should be at the heart of this latest social upheaval.  One consequence of gentrification is increased homelessness, particularly in what may well be America’s most expensive major city.  
A few hours spent walking SF’s Tenderloin district affords a rather sobering look at that downside.
However, starting with the Gold Rush, San Francisco has survived any number of boom-bust cycles in its history and, as the author optimistically implies, is likely to survive this most recent dilemma as well. 

The book is in many ways personal, and her affection for this unique city she frequently visits is apparent.  That quality which attracted her and so many others to San Francisco over the years, ‘The Flower’, continues to bloom.
David Olivier San Francisco – Tour Guide –  US South West Tours California

Zelf nog nooit het kleurrijke San Francisco kunnen bezoeken, maar door de wervende beschrijving en origineel beeldmateriaal doorheen het boek, waande ik me wel even enkele kilometers verder.

Interessant om te lezen hoe de tech industrie de stad heeft beïnvloedt de voorbije jaren. Ook de terugblik op de jaren zeventig en tachtig zijn als twintiger heel fijn om te lezen.

Leest trouwens als een trein! Christel weet vanaf het begin je aandacht te triggeren en houdt dit vol tot het einde.
Sasha Herssens, Artevelde Hogeschool

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Can Quantified Self Be a Facilitating Technology to Help Older Adults Stay Longer in Their Home?

Chapter on Quantified Self and older adults, I used my mom as a case study.

Readers of this chapter are taken through a journey by the author, who narrates a real-life story of a lady called Maria who is 75-year old and lives with her husband Albert, 81-years. The narration describes the lives of Maria and Albert, detailing their enjoyment of physical activity, and their children. Yet, one-day Maria is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and through the narration the author describes the experience that Maria and her family experience. Fast forwarding, to the year 2030, the author continues her narration describing how technology may fit into Maria’s life and that of her family; including the use of wearable devices and sensors integrated into the home where Maria lives, and enabling her family to track in real-time Maria’s sleep patterns and overall health. Additionally, this chapter discusses the fields of ageing in place, the quantified self (QS), and based on existing work in this field, the author explores a taxonomy for the QS, referencing and drawing on the work of Deborah Lupton. Further exploration and discussion in the areas of appropriation, affordance, rights, and risks of QS are provided with the author exploring how digital technologies fit within the healthcare system.

Further reading or download

Beyond the Promise of Personal Informatics

In recent years we see a growth in the use of  Personal Informatics (also known or referred to as Quantified Self, lifelogging). Where people track specific elements of their lives, they gather data and analyze data.  Most of these digital technologies have the aim to create awareness and behavior change. Positioning these digital technologies towards preventive healthcare and e-health in general. To deliver the promise of Personal Informatics in healthcare, these digital technologies will need to comply to different aspects as ‘The practices, meanings, discourses and technologies associated with self-tracking are inherently and inevitably the product of a broader social, cultural and political process’ (Lupton, 2014). In addition, the design and development of these devices need to trigger positive engagement with the user. Can we rethink data visualizations, create more meaning and context within the realm of these digital technologies? In this paper we would like to explore the combination or integration of socio-political aspects in a product design cycle of these digital technologies based on Value Sensitive Design.

Will present this on Living in a ‘Metric Culture’ Conference at Aarhus Institute of Advanced Studies, Denmark, June 2017

Sleeping with Cognitive Capitalism – my talk at Leeds Beckett University on July 4th.

Today data is surrounding us almost everywhere. We as users of different applications and devices feed the data machine. We track ourselves with devices and mobile apps, we produce news feeds about ourselves on numerous platforms, we are data, we are content.

As we create detailed digital profiles of ourselves we should think about what is happening with all this data. Is this data exploited, sold to data brokers, advertisers or is it used a s research material? Or is it just passive around us?
A whole new economy is rising out of our detailed digital profiles. Not only in the advertisement space, where this data is used to target us even more within our supposed field of interest, but also in our health space and workspace this data can be used for the better or worse. Ethics and privacy are elements that we need to consider more clearly. By considering aspects of ethics and privacy, can we lay a responsibility with the companies who produce and develop these devices and apps? Do we need to think about a new label especially for devices and apps targeted at the domains of health and workplaces that regulates and stipulates the conditions for development and design. A set of criteria to what these devices and apps have to comply? If we want to create trust within this environment for a wider adoption, it might be time to create more transparency in data ownership and the design and development of a new generation of products and services.

Digital Health Digital Capital, you can register here.

The picture of Dorian Gray (Oscar Wilde)

A philosophic debate on ‘Self tracking cultures and the emergence of hybrid humans’ part of Being Human Festival, University of Liverpool December 10th 2015
A group of professors in  law, sociologists and communication scientists came together to discuss and debate about self tracking cultures and the emergence of hybrid humans.
The intake of the debate was inspired on Deborah Lupton – The Quantified Self, 2012

As we covered different angles within this debate, I will try to recap them in this article.

Quantified Self or Personal Informatics we understand that people are gathering all sorts of data about themselves for different purposes and aims. Today Quantified Self is not an obscure domain anymore, it comes into different sectors such as the workplace, healthcare to name a few. Self tracking in itself is not a new phenomenon. People have being down this all the time, they track finances, the books they read, the films they go to. And setting goals for ourselves is something very popular during the Christmas and new year period. Today we have technology which facilitates all this and makes it maybe easier to track our lives and interests, but also very detailed. Our data is presented in data visualizations and frequency tables, we create data doubles so to speak, a digital data profile. In doing so we use different devices/wearable’s and apps and there are a lot of questions arising now all this gets more diffused in a population.

Some immediate thoughts, but not limited to this.

First, we leave a trace of data behind for ‘ourselves’ but also for ‘others’
Second, what do we learn from gathering our data?
Third, what is behind the data?
Fourth, who owns the data that we are gathering?
Fifth, what happens with the data?

A digital trace for ourselves but also for ‘others’

While self-tracking ourselves we leave a trace of data behind. We leave data behind on the servers from the companies that deliver the devices or the mobile apps. Some of the self-trackers also share their data on Social Networks such as Facebook or other. At moments we also want to create context, so we use photos Instagram or other photo applications, so we kind of create a digital online diary in the cloud. We can generate a construction of the self, a presentation of the self. Which presentation do we want to give?

This data can be interpreted in different ways and provoke different emotions with the user. What do we want to achieve with this data? Do we want to create a better self? If so, what does that mean? Are we striving for a certain role model, a role model that is maybe a hidden standard in the app or device we use? Will this data, presenting ourselves, make us happier and create a sense of well being? Will it confront us with someone who we don’t want to be?

Control and surveillance

As mentioned before, we leave a trace of data behind for ‘others’. Research shows that some personalities like the control aspect these devices create, depending on what is tracked. Other personalities get stressed out by this control. There is a duality within the self-tracking activity, furthermore there is this surveillance aspect. The data stored on private servers, mainly in the US and not under European legislation, where privacy for example is a different regulation. What happens with the data and who owns the data?

While Personal Informatics is entering different domains these questions get more important. Take the workplace for example where companies measure interactions between employees in a meeting. Who is leading and who Is quiet. The measurement of certain behavior of people could be interesting to learn more about certain behavior in a certain situation within a workplace, but if people get accountable for their behavior through self-tracking in so much detail with facts and figures to where does this lead?  Will this become part of the evaluation process of an employee?

Is this not also the dream of every insurance company? If you don’t move the minimum 30 minutes per day, and you don’t burn X calories a day, your insurance will get higher because there is no change in your behavior? Are we going to a ‘Digital Health Capitalism, where health is the next commodity in all its aspects?

Behavior design within Personal Informatics?

All the devices and its software have an aim; they are developed to let the user do something. Most of them have Behavior Design aspect in it. It will trigger you or nudge you to start or to create new habits and routines. In itself this is a good aspect. To a certain extent people need nudges to do something more or better. But as with all new technology we as a user need to learn how to go about these new technologies and learn how to use them that it is a proper way for the involved user. We can change our lifestyles for the better, but also here there is this duality again, we can get obsessed about the data or change ourselves so much it is not sustainable and not matching with our original personality, hidden processes get ingrained in our everyday life. We then need to think is this what we want? Do we want to create the ideal body? Thinking about the hidden standards that might behind the thought of these apps, considering most of them are developed in the US California it might be an ideal body that is not an ideal body in another culture? And doing so what if we fail? Will this impact our self-esteem? Will we get worried because we set the goals to high for ourselves and don’t achieve. These algorithms are not emphatic nor compassionate and can be very blunt in that perspective.

Engagement with wearables or mobile app?

Recently there has been some movement in the market of wearable devices. While this market had a fast growth, today there are some players who switch gears. Nike Fuel armband most probably will be discontinued over the next months. LarkLife was discontinued after a few months of its existence. Fitbit Force had a recall in the marktet because of rash induction. Rumors say that activity trackers will be more and more implemented in the smartphones. As wearable activity trackers are hard, usually they don’t have a screen where you can see your results immediately, there is always the synchronisation that has to take place. And apart from that, practise shows that after a 6 month period or earlier, the tracking devices are going into a drawer somewhere unused. I have some in mine as well.

I still use Runkeeper for my physical activity and BodyMedia for my sleep and activity tracking. Even though my data is more or less the same all the time, I just like to have that data now, it is an extra confirmation. Using Runkeeper as an extra app on the  iPhone is mainly because of the data has a different presentation and there is also the availability of music that motivates me to run and do Tai Chi during my excercise. In addition I use Lift to keep track of my frequency on the excersise habit.  I like Lift as a frequency tracker to see the difference in seasons and time availability. Something I need to pay attention to. So I tend towards mobile apps as well, although mobile apps can’t solve everything. In different areas we will still need wearables too, but maybe in different ways.

Engagement?

All in all if I reflect on my change in lifestyle I started in October 2012, the technology use was one aspect and made me curious on my results, but more importantly it is that 30 minutes in nature, in the calm, that makes me feel my day starts differently and I feel more happy during that day, that makes me continue doing this.  The feel good aspects about doing the activity is the major trigger in continuing this! Technology is just a small aspect in the whole picture, to make it more complete.

I found the perfect spot to practise the activity, it is easy and accessible. And it fits in my planning (time availability) or I make it fit in my planning 🙂 .

Lift

Lift overview 2012_2014