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The Truth Behind Quantified Self


Admission requirements

This course is an (extracurricular) Honours Class: an honours elective in the Honours College programme. There are limited spots available for non-honours students. Admission will be based on motivation.


Our mood states, caloric intake, physical activity and even our skin conductance; in our modern digital society it is possible to track every single bit of our daily lives with various types of tracking devices. Using this data, our health and personal development can be analyzed and modified to improve our functioning. It leads to a self expressed in numbers, a so-called “quantified self”.

This course will enable students to critically examine the current developments in the digital-data industry and separate the truth from the hype of these developments. In this course, students will examine the claims of the information revolution with a focus on the quantified self – for instance driven by wearables or Facebook usage. Students will survey the ongoing developments in this area based on news reports and peer-reviewed literature. Through brief written reports and in-class presentations, students will reveal their findings in terms of scientific validity and societal implications. For each seminar, students will choose a technology and connect with the guiding theme of the seminar.

The chosen technology (current or futuristic but realistic) may be for instance: (o) Social network data (o) Global positioning (o) Accelerometry (o) Portable EEG

The guiding themes to connect with may include: (o) Data mining on rich vs. poor (o) The perception of privacy (o) Scientific validation of claims
(o) Data in diseases

The students will be given the opportunity to quantify their own behaviour using smartphone tracking and, in each seminar, will reveal what they could learn from this data.

Course objectives

  • A comprehensive survey of the possible technologies used towards quantifying human behaviour in the real world.

  • Get exposure to data from the real world in terms of measurement noise, transformation to metrics, and the path to scientific validity in its usage in improving human health.

  • Identify and articulate the advantages of each data channel and the corresponding societal impact.

  • Evaluate scientific reports on the use of digital data in the well-being and health industry.


Tuesday evenings 19.30-22.00 hrs

1: Tuesday October 2nd, 2018
2: Tuesday October 16th, 2018
3: Tuesday October 30th, 2018
4: Tuesday November 6th, 2018
5: Tuesday November 20th , 2018
6: Tuesday December 4th, 2018
7: Tuesday December 18th, 2018


FSW, Pieter de La Court Building.
All lectures will take place in room SA-37, except for 20 November. This lecture will take place in room SA-31

Course Load

This course is worth 5 EC, which means the total course load equals 140 hours.

Assessment method

70% Seminar presentations
20% Short reports (150 words per seminar)
10% In-class participation continuously evaluated

Please note: Attendance is compulsory.

Blackboard and uSis

Blackboard will be used in this course. Students can register for the Blackboard site two weeks prior to the start of the course.

Please note: students are not required to register through uSis for the Honours Classes. Your registration will be done centrally.

Reading list

1) The patient will see you now. Eric Topol
2) Self-Tracking. Gina Neff & Dawn Nafus
3) Current articles from peer-reviewed literature


Enrolling in this course is possible from August 21st until September 6th 23:59 through the Honours Academy, via this link.


Dr. A. Ghosh