What data won't tell you about the "digitized individual"

Lueg, Christopher; Twidale, Michael Bernard Twidale (2020). What data won't tell you about the "digitized individual" Library Trends, 68(4), pp. 599-610. Johns Hopkins University Press

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Businesses are increasingly interested in "digitizing of the individual" by which they mean creating a comprehensive digital record. This trend coincides with a rise in popularity of self-monitoring apps designed to assist curious individuals in better understanding some of their bodily functions and an associated trend towards personalized medicine. This trend towards digitization in people's private lives is relevant as it may suggest lower barriers to digitizing at work where the capturing of person related data tends to be more regulated than the use of similar technologies at home. We are interested in the constraints inherent in any modelling of real world phenomena, that is, data can only provide approximations of the phenomena investigated and these approximations will inevitably emphasize some characteristics while de-emphasizing others. Rather than proceeding down the path of suggesting ways to push digitization efforts further we use this essay to turn the perspective around by focusing on what a digitized version of an individual is unlikely to tell us regardless of the level of detail. As such, the essay is not a how-to guide but a cautionary tale reminding the reader that electronically collected data is more like clues instead of complete stories.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


School of Engineering and Computer Science > Institut für Medizininformatik I4MI


Lueg, Christopher0000-0003-1022-5724 and
Twidale, Michael Bernard Twidale0000-0002-1486-7364


H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Q Science > QA Mathematics > QA75 Electronic computers. Computer science
Z Bibliography. Library Science. Information Resources > Z665 Library Science. Information Science




Johns Hopkins University Press




Christopher Lueg

Date Deposited:

09 Nov 2020 08:38

Last Modified:

09 Nov 2020 08:38





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