Log Book

Reflection: Self-Tracking

30 September 2016
After tracking my emotions and their dimensions for 5 months, I’ve been reflecting on a few specific points.

Go back and read about the experiment.

Being honest is hard.

In Sigmund Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams, he wrote a basic rule for all patients taking part in psychoanalysis:
You will be tempted to say to yourself that this or that is irrelevant here - or unimportant or nonsensical, so that there is no need to say it. you must never give into these criticisms, but you must say it in spite of them - you must say it precisely because you feel an aversion to doing it.

With that in mind, I tried my best to be transparent when recording my emotion label, the dimensions and the exact events that occurred throughout the day. I learned early on that it was difficult being honest with a computer. In my head, I was capable of reflecting on each emotion and determining whether or not it was conducive to my goals. However, when it came to recording that in a readable (and permanent) medium, it was difficult for the first few months. This eventually became easier because reflection through the recording process made my unpleasant and less conducive experiences clearer and unavoidable. Recording gave my mind less time to rewire my negative experiences and therefore encouraged me to make changes. The more control over my experiences I gained, the easier it was for me to record the truth, even if the emotions still got the best of me in the situation.

Removing the receiver

As we discussed in the theory chapter on emotion, self-reporting of emotion (specifically in a therapeutic session) should be considered to be influenced by the need to create a narrative from their experiences. When there is a receiver, we say what will be understood. In this experiment, only the database is my receiver and it expects very little from me. If I can remove myself from them, the constraints of grammar and consistency no longer apply here. Nor must one event or experience correspond to another by emotion label or number - as long as one doesn’t fall prey to desire for pattern-finding. I could see this process of daily emotion data collection as a way for a patient to learn their own emotion codes, which would help in a therapeutic session, to help the receiver have a better framework for interpretation of the original experience.

Nuance in dimensionality

The process of emotion with all of its cognitive and physiological processes, has ample opportunity for nuance. The same stimulus could trigger an emotion experience more than once. We could expect the same stimulus to create the same emotion, but differences in exposure length, the element of surprise, or other emotions concurrently present could create divergent experiences. The recording for each dimensions can, and do, vary even when the emotion label is the same.

document image
Often there is a correlation in the valence dimension (positive dimensions are recorded as 3, 4 and 5 and negative 1, 2 and 3) but the other dimensions provide the nuance that separates one happiness from another happiness. If I reorganize my emotion data to show me the same emotion labels, this becomes quite obvious, but this learning lends itself perfectly for a visual representation. The image below shows the differences in recorded dimensions visually for the same emotion label.

document image
Multiple dimensions create the visual gradation needed to contract one experience with another, but a further step would be to find a way to add contextual data around it. Where I was, who I was with, and what I was doing all played a part in that experience. Using the current system, I recorded this data but it became clear that the visualization must include it in some form.

How I spend my time & see my life

I found several patterns in my emotion based on the people I chose to spend my time with and the activities that I participate in. Often, it’s possible to look at only the events of the day to tell how I felt about it, reminiscent of traditional journaling. When I travel or spend a lot of time outside, for example, I track more pleasant and conducive emotions. I can therefore infer that in a challenge period in life, I could use this finding as a mechanism for coping. When I began tracking my emotion, I had been in Switzerland for less than a year. It was natural for people to move in and out of my life both fluidly and abruptly as I found my place in a new environment. When I look through my emotion data, specifically in visual form, these movements are apparent. The lessons I learned and the challenges that came with relocating are apparent upon viewing my data chronologically. To make these types of discoveries becomes easier through the functionality of filtering in a digital database.

Next Post

Experiment: Emotion Tracking

21 August - 12 September 2016
tracking my own Emotion data for almost 3 months and developing three possible Visual Systems - it’s time for a first round of testing.