Gamified Self: Factors Influencing Self-Tracking Technology Acceptance

Gamified Self: Factors Influencing Self-Tracking Technology Acceptance

Rachelle DiGregorio (Big Spaceship, USA) and Harsha Gangadharbatla (University of Colorado, USA)
Copyright: © 2016 |Pages: 24
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8651-9.ch013
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Abstract

Gamified self has many dimensions, one of which is self-tracking. It is an activity in which a person collects and reflects on their personal information over time. Digital tools such as pedometers, GPS-enabled mobile applications, and number-crunching websites increasingly facilitate this practice. The collection of personal information is now a commonplace activity as a result of connected devices and the Internet. Tracking is integrated into so many digital services and devices; it is more or less unavoidable. Self-tracking engages with new technology to put the power of self-improvement and self-knowledge into people's own hands by bringing game dynamics to non-game contexts. The purpose of this chapter's research is to move towards a better understanding of how self-tracking can (and will) grow in the consumer market. An online survey was conducted and results indicate that perceptions of ease of use and enjoyment of tracking tools are less influential to technology acceptance than perceptions of usefulness. Implications and future research directions are presented.
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Introduction

One day, Robin Barooah decided that his addiction to coffee had gone too far. His relationship with the caffeinated substance had gone on for almost 28 years, and he was beginning to suspect that it was causing his mood swings and productivity crashes. He had lasted this long as a coffee drinker because he believed that it helped him be productive, but it didn’t seem worth it anymore.

Robin’s previous attempts to quit “cold turkey” had proven unsuccessful, so he crafted a new plan to stop drinking coffee for good. His plan consisted of brewing the same pot of coffee every morning, but gradually decreasing the amount he consumed by 20 milliliters every week. Robin stuck to this precise scheme for almost four months until he was down to less than one ounce of coffee per day. That is when he decided he could stop drinking it altogether.

For an unrelated experiment, Robin was also keeping track of his daily hours of productivity. One day, a few months after he quit drinking coffee, he was feeling unproductive and thought a quick cup of caffeine would get him back on track. Before following through with this urge, Robin decided to examine how his productivity had previously been affected by coffee. He used his collected data to produce the chart below, which is very clear that caffeine has a negative influence on Robin’s ability to concentrate and be productive (Barooah, 2009).

By comparing his change in coffee intake to his hours of productivity, Robin had turned his body and self into an experiment and knowingly or unknowingly employed game dynamics to achieve the desired outcome. He set goals and used numbers and self-tracking to better understand his behavior and see the consequences of his actions. His meticulous method for collecting his personal data eventually paid off in the form of self-knowledge (Wolf, 2010).

Robin Barooah’s story is one of many examples of a practice called self-tracking, in which a person collects and reflects on their personal information over time and thereby brings game dynamics to non-game contexts. Robin’s experience is one of the many examples described in an article titled, “The Data-Driven Life,” in The New York Times Magazine in 2010 and was penned by Gary Wolf, the co-founder of a subculture movement devoted to self-tracking called the Quantified Self or Gamified Self. Robin’s story is one of the quintessential examples of this interesting phenomenon.

There is no doubt that self-tracking has become a subject of major media interest. To accompany its appearance in The New York Times, many other prestigious and influential news outlets have covered the Quantified Self, including The Economist, Wired, The Atlantic, The Guardian, and Forbes. As another example, the volume of Google searches for the term “quantified self,” for example, has spiked repeatedly since 2011, reflecting repeated surges of news references starting in mid-2010. Even renound scientist and inventor Stephen Wolfram is talking about self-tracking. In a recent blog post, Wolfram claimed: “It won’t be long before…everyone will be doing it, and wondering how they could have ever gotten by before” (Wolfram, 2012).

What does all of this attention on self-tracking mean? Is everyone destined for a life of meticulously monitoring their caffeine intake and measuring it against their daily productivity? Will they all be consulting spreadsheets for diet advice before they know it? Is gamifying self the next big thing?

The answer is no, probably not. The real growth of self-tracking (and reason for its extensive media attention) is happening within the consumer product sector. Self-tracking dynamics are making a (relatively) quiet ascension within the technology industry through consumer products that help people easily track their fitness, finances, sleep, food, productivity, and many other types of information. These devices, mobile applications, and websites are called commercial self-tracking tools. They are usually simple, designed to be easy enough for anyone to use, oriented around a goal (such as weight loss), and their prime audience reaches beyond the scope of early technology adopters.

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