The Examined Life.

"The unexamined life," Socrates said, "is not worth living." Pretty much what you'd expect from a philosopher with the luxury of lying about in a toga contemplating the procession of his days. Nevertheless, today the march of technology allows us to examine our lives in ways we didn't before -- and, of course, convey the results of that examination to others. I give you 2009 in the life of Dan Meyer, a high-school math teacher and edublogger living in Santa Cruz (via Boing Boing):

Dan Meyer's 2009 Annual Report from Dan Meyer on Vimeo.

I'm sure that what made the project attractive was the fact that he could share it with others and have fun creating that presentation. If you couldn't put together the video with the funky music and animated graphics and photos of your buddies, would you? It's possible, but it seems unlikely you'd type up a bunch of tables, mimeograph them, and pass the packet around to your friends and relatives.

What I can say is that to people who are not Dan Meyer, it makes it much more interesting. Even though I think you have to be a little crazy to record all this information, I'm always in favor of people doing fun things with data. "It's been two years," says Meyer, "and I can't see quitting this kind of introspection. I'm already anticipating my decade retrospective where I hope I'll see a lot of huge life changes reflected in microscopic daily statistics. That'll be great."

Some traditionalists might bristle at the idea that Meyer's project even constitutes "introspection," which is supposed to involve things like staring at the shorebirds while you contemplate your relationship with your parents and wonder why you have such a problem with authority figures. But it is: Meyer is examining his life and drawing some meaning from the examination. It's entirely possible that were he alive today, Socrates would be quantifying his life the way Meyer does as a way of gaining insight into the human experience.

Keep in mind that technology doesn't give us this kind of data, it just allows us to record them, sort them, and share them. The data are all around us.

-- Paul Waldman

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