You can’t work in the tech industry without suffering buzzwords and marketing speak. But for anyone with an interest in big data, the term “datasexual” goes well past buzzword territory to wandering in the weeds of silliness.
The attempt to coin the term comes from Dominic Basulto, who wrote a piece on personal data called “Meet the Urban Datasexual.” The title has two glaring problems. First, Basulto doesn’t distinguish between urban, suburban or rural. There’s no reason someone with an interest in the quantified self – the concept of self-knowledge through self-tracking – couldn’t be a suburbanite or a farmer.
Not an Honest Description
That’s a minor quibble, though. The big gripe is the attempt to coin the term “datasexual.” A portmanteau can be useful, but not when it’s dishonest. “Quantified self” might not roll off the tongue, but it’s plenty descriptive of people who are interested in tracking their lives. You could call it “egodata” to make it a bit snappier, as that’s more descriptive and a play on “geo data.” But quantified self, or QS, does the job nicely.
There’s nothing necessarily sexual about QS. Yes, Basulto is attempting to piggyback on the term “metrosexual,” but the quantified self is almost entirely unrelated.
Unfortunate terms aside, Basulto does have a point buried in the post, which is this: “Just as elements of the metrosexual movement eventually found their way into the fashion mainstream, the whole datasexual craze is starting to tip into the mainstream. All of us – not just the datasexuals of today – will soon be equipped with a breathtaking array of digital devices and sensors from ‘cool’ companies like Apple and Nike.”
Personal Data Is Going Mainstream
The quantified-self movement is likely to continue its ongoing move into the mainstream. Basulto is wrong that there’s an “obsession” for recording “everything about their personal lives.” The Placeme app he refers to is a bit more extreme than most folks are likely to want. But apps like Runkeeper are already finding adoption outside hardcore data nerds and quantified-self enthusiasts. And our phones are already equipped with a “breathtaking array” of sensors, and if that’s not enough there’s plenty more to be had. The Fitbit, for instance, comes to mind.
It’s also worth noting that many of the folks adopting apps like Runkeeper probably aren’t thinking in terms of data (and certainly not sexual). Data geeks are helping to enable apps that push data consumption into the mainstream, but the mainstream isn’t getting into data per se – no more than mainstream acceptance of the Internet meant immersing themselves in HTTP.
But use and consumption of personal data is going mainstream, and it’s a major opportunity for companies that know how to collect, analyze, interpret and present useful data in a meaningful way. It’s also going to be a challenge for mainstream users who, so far, haven’t spent much time thinking about data and privacy. But that’s a different topic for a different day.
Image courtesy of Shutterstock.