A few weeks back I was asked to fill in my own Myers Briggs questionnaire to enable me to find out about what personality type I am likely to be. The Myers Briggs Type Indicator is “a psychometric questionnaire designed to measure psychological preferences in how people perceive the world and make decisions”. These preferences were extrapolated from the typological theories originated by Carl Gustav Jung, as published in his 1921 book Psychological Types. He stated that there are four main functions of consciousness, two of them being perceiving functions: Sensation and Intuition and two being judging functions Thinking and Feeling that are then modified by two main attitude types: extraversion and introversion. Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter, Isabel Briggs Myers began generating the questionnaire during World War II, believing that knowledge of personality preferences would help women who were entering the industrial workforce for the first time identify the sort of war-time jobs where they would be “most comfortable and effective”.
The idea that a set of questions with certain weighting that ask me about how I deal with certain situations and turns that into a four-letter personality type has been something that has always bemused and slightly annoyed me. Whether self discovery questions in Cosmo magazine or psychometric questionnaires that get you certain jobs depending on the results have remained a constant aggravating mystery to me. Yet I felt this was a challenge for me to overcome my anger and have personal experience to criticise against. As a result of this questionnaire I am an ENFP: an innovator and inspirer…allegedly!
Quantifying the Unquantifiable
The idea of quantifying the unquantifiable; the fluid thoughts and emotions of our everyday lives has in recent times become more and more popular as algorithms in social media focused applications have enabled us all to invest and share data and act as conceptual self-knowledge mirrors. Originally used in organizational management, social media has enabled a more personal approach to help evaluate ourselves. Indeed the rise in self-help and self-knowledge have become a huge business and created opportunities for organisations and individuals to offer more and more self-reflective tools that allow them to record, quantify, reflect and evaluate on their everyday lives; their thoughts, feelings, mental and physical health.
My original fascination came when I stumbled across Jonathan Harris & Sep Kamvar’s “We Feel Fine” project: An algorithm that collects around 20,000 feelings per day as expressed by the blogging community and splices up the feelings according to demographic information about the author of each feeling (age, gender, geographical location, and local weather conditions). It then presents these findings in a series of playful interfaces, each of which paints a different picture of human emotion. Other applications/products/questionnaires have crunched this kind of qualitative, touchy feely soft data to allow you to see how good you are in bed, a rolling history of your sex life, your daily mundane activities calculated into graphical visualizations, psychological phenomena translated into quantifiable scales or your daily tweeted interests simply autoplotted into a diary format. The artist and designer Lucy Kimbell has also been investigating the evaluation cultures in management, technology and the arts; her performance/service: Free Evaluation Service is one example. And more recently Gary Wolf and Kevin Kelly set up the Quantified Self program to enable self-quantifiers to meet and compare and analyse their own methods and processes of evaluation.
The Microtrend Diary: a Personal Futures Thought Experiment
This initial interest in quantifying the absurdity of our feelings inspired me to consider how we might use these psychometric approaches to create personal futures services. What if you could create a self-reflective diary that made use of our everyday thoughts to provoke us in such a way that you are able to change your future actions. As a thought experiment I devised ‘The Microtrend Diary’ during my final year on the MA Design Interactions course in 2007 and have made a recent 2nd prototype. I am currently looking to develop this further with some initial user testing and then publish a small batch for distribution.
Inspired by the abundance of self-help books, self-discovery personality tests and psychometric questionnaires, the Microtrend Diary is a mirror of your daily actions and emotions that reveal provocative ways to alter your future actions. This personalised diary, is printed to order based on a set of preliminary personality questions. As the owner makes a daily record of their actions, a unique set of provocative aide memoirs are revealed under a perforated flap that suggest changing your behaviour in certain ways for the following day.
Other pages in the diary include the hourly ‘happiness’ chart, ‘what will this day be?’ join the dots exercise, ‘crowdsourcing you future’ postcards to send to friends and a weekly ‘hopes & fears for the future’ scatter graph. After each week the diary owner is asked to plot their hopes and fear for the coming week and after each month these thoughts are plotted against a time series analysis graph identifying historical trends and pointers for the future. The self-fulfilling prophecy diary is printed weekly and each week is stored in it’s own dedicated monthly box.