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"By Their [Data] You Will Know Them": Historical Reflections on Capturing Patterns in Everyday Life

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Abstract

With large quantities of digital data collected on our everyday lives, concerns arise as to how this data may affect these very lives. To derive relevant research questions concerning Everyday Futures, our essay reflects on the use of digital data in everyday decision-making. We do so by comparing historic and contemporary examples of health related data-action loops on three different scales: the body, the home and the city. We conclude that while the use of data to inform sensitive decisions is not new, digitization gives rise to a number of important research themes, including tensions between developers and users, theory and opportunity, sensors and senses, norms and diversity, 'expert' and actor, and that what is (thought to be) measured versus what is not. Moreover, we illustrate how our multiscale, historic, multidisciplinary reflection forms a potential method for everyday futures research.