Thursday, February 13, 2014

Tell me your life story

A class project for Design Fiction.
The prompt: "Our formal critical selves" - do something looking at your past in a counterfactual kind of way. See how your life could have been if you had done something differently, or if something different had happened to you.
The timeframe: two weeks. (due the Tuesday after next)

Early thoughts:
1. All the time I've "wasted" throughout the years, and count up the hours I could have been doing something "productive", in this creepy totalitarian sense.

Then I could transform it into N masteries, just by dividing by 10,000! If I've slacked for 20,000 hours by now, I could be an expert in piano and chess. Easy as that. The humor comes from the fact that of course it is not as easy as that.

2. 23 and Me is weird. I have all this data about what risks for diseases I might have. I can't act on it at all. What does it mean that I have a 1.2% chance to get kidney disease? Should I eat more prunes?
I could make it a little more real by making a "wheel of Dan" where you spin a wheel and it tells you "okay, with this lifetime where you started with Dan's genes, you have Alzheimer's and gout." And then I could let you upload your 23 and Me data, and then spin your own wheel, and compare with me, and maybe ask you if you'd trade with me. Make it personal. And maybe compare these risks to other risks, like the odds of being struck by lightning. Whatever.

The downside is that very few people have done 23 and Me, so it's hard to make it actually personal.
Another downside: what am I trying to say? I think there are a lot of interesting things to say about 23 and me, but others say them better than I do, or else I don't really care about them.

3. Something about browser history or email relationships over time. Meh. Been done. I tried to mine all the neat personal data I have about myself, my sleep logs and fitbits and stuff, but I ended up with the same old personal-informatics gripe: what the hell is this data good for?

4. Life stories. I started looking for meaning in Flappy Bird, and then started looking at how people look for meaning in Flappy Bird, which is kind of funny because there is probably not that much meaning to find in Flappy Bird. But all the game developers want there to be some meaning in Flappy Bird, so they tell all kinds of stories, like "really polish a simple game mechanic and it'll shine" or "make sure you can restart quickly" or whatever.

We tell these stories about our lives.
"You may ask yourself, well, how did I get here?"
And most of the time, there's no real story, you just did.
I started looking at the story I tell myself. It was very broken up by where I lived and where I worked. New school, new job, new box in my life story. But
if you mix up those boxes, draw the lines really arbitrarily, you might hit some really more interesting stories. I drew a bunch of random boxes with arbitrary lines. The second box above is "what I liked at various ages", the fifth is "how I felt at various ages", and both are much more interesting than "where I worked."
I want to make a tool to help people retell their life story, but give them a little twist: let the system arbitrarily decide where the boundaries end.

Messing around with the flow here a little bit, or what happens after you tell your story.

More to come!

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