Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Data Should Inform But Not Determine

In this entry I will continue to explore the implications of the growing trend related to the creation of measurement and tracking systems for the optimization of life. On my previous post I failed to adress the impact of our decisions regarding what to measure on the way we lead our lives.

As we continue to leverage data to support and guide our actions and decisions, the selection of what to measure will become increasingly important. What we measure will identify what we deem to be most important, and will provide a foundation for our actions and decision making. In other words, the data will serve as a reflection of our world view as well as a basis for the reality that we strive to bring into existence in our life.

As a consequence the information systems that we create, which processes this information, will also grow in importance. It will play an enabling and limiting role in our lives. In the word of Terry Winograd , in "designing information systems we design ways of being." This will be more true than ever before as technology encroaches in the day-to-day lives of most individuals (at least in industrialized nations), no longer relegated to professional organizations and pursuits. Lawrence Lessig shared the same idea in his famous quote "code is law".

What does this all mean to me - it is now more important than ever that the creation of information systems be guided by the interests and active involvement of people that come from all different avenues within our society (rather than merely engineers, developers and programmers). 

Also, echoing a sentiment from my previous post, as individuals we need to remember to empower ourselves rather than data from outside. We can't loose sight that the data we are capturing and processing is ultimately nothing more than a guide posts that we have selected. The choices we make should be informed by data but not determined by it.

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