I am starting to pay more attention to how I can incorporate biometric data into my sketches, drawing it back to the deferred performance that has been this past year of the pandemic. So far I have focused on heart rate data. As data, it has a nice range of variance. Conceptually it appeals to me as a means of presenting embodied-ness. The Fitbit collects different types of data, including steps and activity rates, but also sleep. Sleep is measured in levels (wake, light, rem, and deep) and durations of seconds. For this sketch, sleep data from one month of the past year is selected at random. The background hue responds to sleep level. Saturation and alpha channel is influenced by duration. I was hoping to use the measure of duration to inform passage of time in the animation, though it is proving to be tricky figuring out how to do that in the code. I also need to do some debugging as it is stuck reading one night of the month.
This has me reflecting on sleep of this past year and how the increased stress and anxiety has influenced these nightly slips into oblivion. This work is an early sketch, but I am working on developing it out more as a performance piece.
I got the FitBit in April 2020 while we in our first lockdown in Ireland. I did not have much interest in one prior to that, in part because I had not been very active in terms of exercise but also because I was disturbed by the collection of my biometric data but private companies. There is something quite invasive about tracking movements, heart rate, and sleep pattern. I attempted to build a pedometer using an Adafruit circuit playground, though it was not accurate and I was unable to store the data with the type of microcontroller that I had. After a few weeks of lack of success, I ended up getting the Fitbit.
At that time I also began running daily as a means of coping with the stress of lockdown and as part of my grieving process after losing my dad suddenly in October 2019. I admit, the Fitbit did initially get me to run more and farther then I have ever before. The gamification of exercise had its appeal, though this wore of when the 2020-21 academic year began, which was one of the most challenging of my career (including when I was adjunct at multiple institutions). Every free moment went into work, and there was less time to do so due to lack of appropriate childcare.
As we are set begin another academic year in the time of COVID-19, I, like numerous others, am still trying to process the past 18 months. Working with this data is one way of doing so. Working with the biometric statistics of my everyday actions, my body just making it through each moment to moment, perhaps I hope to gain some insight of whatever this was and whatever this still is. It is a deferred performance of just doing.