Tag Archives: datafication

MyFitnessPal: The Datafication of Nutrition

When I was initially choosing my topic, I had it narrowed down to the datafication of nutrition. From there, I initially thought of nutritional apps, but struggled to find a clear direction from there. I had trouble deciding how specific was too specific, so I began my research and decided to let my topic emerge on its own.

For me, the argument came before the topic. As I was doing research, I tried to be open-minded to all sides of the problem at hand – people having difficulty managing their health and diet. Once I decided that I strongly felt the apps were helping people become more healthy, I gained more direction. From there, I saw that there are many different kids of nutritional apps, so it would be best to choose which one I thought was the most effective, and talk about why and how.

When I am presented with information, I like being able to visualize it clearly. Data and information alone can often feel intangible or unimaginable. For this reason, I tried to choose images that put whatever I was saying into perspective. After I was done giving the presentation, I wanted people to be able to go back, see the image, and immediately recall the main concepts I talked about during that slide.

One example is that of the image of one serving of ice cream.

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During this section, I talked about how low calorie counts and percentages on nutrition labels are often deceiving. This image clearly puts what I said into perspective because it allows the audience to relate the portion size to how much ice cream they personally eat. Without this image, they might not have realized how small 1/2 cup actually is because “1/2” can be used to describe something from as small as a cookie to as large as an entire cake.

The image of the shocked girl also puts the text into perspective.

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During this slide, I talked about the benefits of receiving instant feedback. While I spoke, I provided the audience with the proper knowledge needed to know what is going on in the image. Because the audience is provided with some creative freedom, the audience can better understand why immediate feedback is helpful because they themselves make the connection between the feedback and the girl’s expression. They can imagine what she saw, what may have caused her to have that expression, and what she might be feeling.

One of my weaknesses during the in-class presentation had to do with connecting with the audience. I felt more at peace with a script at hand because I knew it helped me articulate myself greatly. Still, if I had memorized it, I may have been able to make more eye-contact and better engage my audience. I found doing so on the web easier because there was less pressure, so I could have a more conversational tone of voice. Over all, I enjoyed the experience and will use this style of presentation in the future.

The Datafication of Our Lives (Lucas Muller)

“Datafied location across time is most notably being applied to people. For years wireless operators have collected and analyzed information to improve the service level of their networks. But the data is increasingly being used for other purposes and collected by third parties for new services. Some smartphone applications, for example, gather location information regardless of whether the app itself a location-based feature. In other cases, the whole point of an app is to build a business around knowing the users’ locations. An example is Foursquare, which lets people “check in” at their favorite locations. It earns income from loyalty programs, restaurant recommendations, and other location-related services” – Viktor Mayer-Schönberger and Kenneth Cukier’s Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work, and Think. 

The rise of “Big Data” has been swift, and the data collected on us today is often sensitive as well as private. Data like this can turn into harmful information when in the wrong hands and, for this reason, people should be wary of the technological advances in data collection today that have been utilized by large smartphone corporations.

The technological race that brought portable devices into the vast majority of pockets throughout the 21st century came so rapidly that most people did not realize how much more their phones had become capable of in recent years. I have often seen the look of incredulity as someone I know discovers a feature on their smartphone they were formerly oblivious to. Google, for example, now has the ability to collect data from every smartphone in the form of location, browsing history, and app preferences to provide smarter services to enhance the user experience with their products. However, they also store this data in massive quantities and utilize it for “company research”. Google has data to show where each of their customers has been, what they have searched on the internet, and what pictures they have taken on their phones.

The “datafication” of our lives is a highly sensitive movement; it gives corporations the means to collects data from the privacy of anyone’s life, such as the whereabouts their honeymoons, and makes it accessible to companies like Google who may assess it for “research”. Although it is true that massive data collection helps Google provide a number of conveniences to its users, such as GPS, smarter browsing, and more relevant advertising, the frequent reports of cyber-attacks that occur across the globe remind us of the dangers involved with placing information in the Cloud where it can be accessed by hackers.  For this reason, people have every right to feel hesitant about the rise of “Big Data” today.

Big Data: The Clay of the Universe

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Mayer-Schönberger, Viktor, and Kenneth Cukier. Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work, and Think. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013. 7. Print.

Big Data has opened my eyes to the inherent power of data and information. I have always thought of data and information as just numbers or facts – items with no true depth or importance. However, I have come to realize that data is like clay; it will lay idly and remain unimpressive until it is molded into something beautiful. One example is that of our Buzzcards. Data is constantly recorded about which buildings I enter and exit, which dining halls I eat at, and much more. Initially, this information seems unimportant. Who cares if I went to Woodies at 7PM? Datafication involves gathering very large samples of data, however. When data is drawn from every GT student’s Buzzcard, suddenly one can determine which dining hall is the most popular, so that the least popular one can be inspected and improved. One can also determine what time students are generally returning to their dorms, and perhaps campus police can be notified what time they need to be the most alert. Instances such as these shed light on how present datafication is in even everyday life and how it can make people’s lives better.

Although datafication is useful in many ways, I am skeptical about the validity of its usefulness on smaller scales. One such example is social media; I do not feel it is worth allowing these medias to track my every move simply so that I can be provided with relevant advertisements.

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Collecting such an intense amount of data seems to be superfluous as per its use. It is ultimately left up to the individual to decide how much clay he or she would like to add to the pot. Though I feel that datafication is not ideal in every situation, I find it difficult to deny that using data and information in this way as a whole is revolutionary. Understanding “data and how it can be used” will help us understand the world in ways we never have before.