Quantified Humanists - Assignment 5: Quant Self Intervention

03 25 2019

Assignment 4: Quant Self Intervention, Link to Assignment


With the halfway point of the semester come and gone, I wanted to develop something for this intervention assignment that would serve as a piece of, or at least an inspiration for, my final project in Quantified Humanists. When it comes to this idea of interventions into daily life it seemed like the most obvious device with which to facilitate that was my smart phone, and conveniently enough Joey highlighted the iOS tool Shortcuts as a simple and relatively powerful way to develop custom widgets on the iPhone.

Conceptually, for this assignment I wanted to port the input page I used in my Data Feelings assignment onto my phone in a way that would then append the submitted values onto a database of some kind hosted online. Whether I end up using this specific data or not for my final project, generally having the ability to send data to a web-hosted database will hopefully make it much easier to then access and visualize that data from another application, as I imagine I will be doing for my final assignment.

I took a little while acclimating to the shortcuts app, but having now spent time writing code in a few different languages, the node based programming of the app felt relatively intuitive. Ultimately the applet I created had only three main components. First, it asks five questions in succession, each one requiring a number answer to indicate how a specific aspect of my life is currently affecting my mood. A positive number means it is having a positive impact, and a negative number means it is contributing to a negative mood. Then the values of those inputs are submitted to a JSON dictionary along with the date, time and a random ID number to make the entry easily accessible later. Then finally, the shortcut appends the new dictionary to a JSON file that I am hosting on Dropbox.

A preview of the moods database

A preview of the moods database

The only inconvenience of the process was that I was unable to neatly program the applet to pop up at a daily set time, due to what many on the internet have speculated is a concern from Apple about the security issues of allowing such an action. So instead I set up daily reminders which when they appear, tell me it is time to submit my mood data. And while it is not an issue for this particular aspect of my final project, I will need to sort out the best way for another application to access and parse the data in that Dropbox JSON file (or possibly even send data to a different server to make that possible)


While I did not complete this project for Quantified Humanists, my final project for the class Tangible Interactions Workshop coincidentally was a very apt example of a tool for Quantified Self interventions. I called it the Computer Wellness Stone and it facilities mental and visual breaks from computer use every twenty minutes as recommended by many optometrists. Click here to see my full blog post on that piece.