Back in 2005, when people still talked about Pete Doherty on Libertines forums and Tony Blair was still Prime Minister and this writer was still in short trousers, a man named Nicholas Felton somehow managed to set the bar for the “quantified self” movement that’s exploded over the last few years. And boy, did he set that bar high, creating an Annual Report each year that laid out his personal data, from weight to how many miles he’d flown to the books he’d read and the photographs he’d taken.
Painstakingly laid out in infographics and charts, these became the Feltron Annual Reports (the additional “r” in his name as a sort of design pen name, almost separating the reports from life). Now, ten years on, he’s helped shape the Facebook timeline design, seen his work placed in MoMA’s permanent collection and launched iPhone app Reporter, which helps users record and visualise subtle aspects of their lives. His most recent Annual Report has just surfaced, and it’s the one that the designer says is his last.
“The world of personal data has changed considerably since the project began in 2005 and this edition attempts to capture its current state,” Nicholas says on his site. “While previous editions have relied on custom solutions to gather ethereal personal data, this edition is based entirely on commercially available applications and devices.”
As with previous reports, we see Nicholas’ car, computer, location, environment, media consumption, sleep, activity and physiology instrumented and logged, but this time using just readily available products and software. What do we learn? That in Q1 he weighed an average of 158.8 lb, that he drove a total of 459 miles, and that he took a whopping 685 photographs. Why do we care? We’re not sure, but it’s utterly compelling, and this decade-long body of work is testament of the power of design to allow us to read and communicate our lives, and in Nicholas’ case, to predict a trend that today in the world of FitBits and phone pedometers seems almost commonplace.
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