Last week I posted this on instagram:
Our new car insurance company offers a substantial discount if you allow them to monitor your driving habits for a few months via a device that sits under your steering wheel. The savings is substantial, enough to make me consider it. But it sounds a little Big Brother-ish, and I won’t do just anything to save money.
But then I found out that I would have access to the information.
And I realized that I’ve been voluntarily wearing a device that tracks my activity for almost a year, and I love it.
You get what you measure. When I started tracking my steps, I started moving more. I love having this data on my activity and my sleep, and—one year in—I’m thinking about using it to track what I eat. (Anyone have experience with this?)
If my health insurance company were monitoring my how I move and when I sleep, I would feel differently about it. But I’m measuring it voluntarily because I’m the one who gets to use the data, and it makes me healthier.
Last week we talked about how digital reading produces a treasure trove of digital data. Depending on what kind of device you use and how you get your books, publishers and book sellers can track what you read and when, when you speed up and when you slow down, and the exact point at which you abandon a book entirely.
This is awesome, and kind of creepy.
I would love to see my complete e-reading history, complete with titles, times, and highlights of favorite passages, for the same reason people love to review their scrapbooks. I think having the information would also make me a more careful reader: is the book I’m about to pick up really worth my time?
But I’m not sure I would want anyone else to see it, and I definitely don’t want writers to write different books because of the data. Readers speed up when Mr. Darcy shows up in Pride and Prejudice, but does that mean Pride and Prejudice should have more Darcy scenes?
When you measure safe driving, you get safe drivers. When you measure activity, you get more steps. When you measure reading … well, we’re not really sure yet.
Technology, knowledge, and invasiveness. The possibilities are vast. The question is who gets the information, and to what end?
I’d love to hear your thoughts and personal experiences in comments.
P.S. A Great American Novel, on sale for $1.99 today.