Assignment: Collect your digital footprint.
I’ve always wanted to look at the bigger picture of my life – but I never imagined the effects it would have on me.
Because I was never active on my email or social media, I decided to download my Google Location History Data to explore and experiment with. This dataset dates back to this time last year (Feb 18 – Feb 19) – I spent exactly half of that time in New York and half of that time in Bangkok. (https://takeout.google.com/settings/takeout)
Before writing my own code, I went on Location History Visualizer to get a sense of the data (https://locationhistoryvisualizer.com/heatmap/). In less than two minutes, I found myself tearing up about my past in Bangkok. It brought back memories I wanted to let go. — This experience of visually zooming in and out of my location history created a very dramatic change of emotion, from being very excited to somewhat traumatised.
After a while I calmed down and focused on my life in New York instead. I changed my mindset to think “Where are the places I’ve been and where else can I explore?”. This allowed me to think of my good memories when my family visited, look for places I enjoyed previously and look forward to other adventures.
ABOUT DATA: I’m surprised by how accurate and detailed the tracking is. The data shows my friend’s apartment that I went to only once and stayed for just 10 minutes. If looking into detail, I can also see my bike trails vs. my walks. Google knows exactly where I am! This shouldn’t be a surprise, but it still is.
ABOUT ME: I’m surprised by the emotional influence this dataset has on me, and how it really depends on what lens I put on when looking at it.
For future development for this project, I will add a timeline and a clock. Timeline: to scroll and see if my life in New York changes by season / by the amount of time I’ve spent here (becoming more local). Clock: to see how my map changes by the time of day . The assumption is that after 12-1 AM I’m mostly at Bobst or ITP. Hopefully this will trigger some positive change.
The questions I have after having done this assignment are “How do we consciously explore data?” and “How can we let the insights reveal themselves in a suitable manner?” (not take us by surprise in a negative way). Another thought I have is that these data let us live the past over and over again whereas our minds have a different way in managing these memories – how do we balance the two – accepting the truth and being present.
A quote I’m pondering: “The fact that we change all the time is what makes us human”
Huge thank you to Morgan Mueller for coding help.