Atlas of the Habitual

Tim Clark (US)

Atlas of the Habitual

Personal narratives hidden in quantified data, 2010-2011

Atlas of the Habitual hyper-digitises an individual’s life to question what, if any, value can be attributed to the generation of personal data. Through the production of categorised maps ranging from the mundane to the momentous, the atlas depicts a complex self-portrait spanning an excess of 3,335 kilometers in one single small town over a 200 day period.

With the rise of both the quantified self movement and commercial location based services, companies are not only learning more about our personal lives, they are profiting off our desire to share and be connected. While they may have our raw location data, they may never fully be able to analyse the human narratives that hide in all of our personalised datasets. The atlas is an exploration into how this information can be made tangible for the individual while addressing the mammoth task of keeping up with constantly generating data.

About Tim
I’m an American designer who investigates the trajectories of our current technological advancements. Through a variety of media my work exists to instill inquiry in viewers about the forces behind how innovation is shaped. I’m currently part of the Design Interactions program at the Royal College of Art in London.


How did you get started lifelogging/analysing data?
Hiking was the first experience I had with lifelogging. As a child I learned to use a piece of string and a trail map to check hiking distance. One day my father brought home a GPS he received free from work because they were doing an ad campaign for the manufacture. We took the brick-like object outside and turned it on. There we were, a small black dot in the middle of a white screen. How did it do it? Did I really need this? The technology has advanced significantly since then but I have always looked for new ways to answer those questions.

Why do you find lifelogging so interesting?
Lifelogging during the course of the Atlas of the Habitual project was about finding something stable to invest my time into as I accumulated all of these new experiences when I moved to a new location. The driving force behind the project was to make sure the record was as complete and accurate as possible. If I were to have missed something it would not be a finished product. Since the project's completion I have become a self proclaimed lifelogging burnout. All of the processing of the data and categorising was excruciating. I would spend up to 5 hours every Friday going through that week's tracks. I now want very little to do with personalised lifelogging. I will only return to it in the future if it is something that will contribute to monitoring my personal health in a severe or life-or-death type situation.

How do people in your life react when they discover the extent of your lifelogging?
It's a bit of a tricky subject. Some of the maps in the atlas were based around individuals. Because they were my maps I have decided how they were portrayed and remembered. Some were quite happy with them, others probably not so much.

What's your favourite time of day and why?
Early morning. The quality of light and the quiet.

Do you remember the first electronic device you owned?

What do you want done with your data after you die?
Delete it. People should not be remembered that way.

Is there anything about yourself that you would absolutely never like tracked?
Dirty underwear.

What insights on your life has tracking your data revealed?
Well, it seems that I traveled 64 kilometers while wearing dirty underwear. Since then I no longer live alone and have my own washing machine.

What websites, magazines or other resources inspire, confound, amuse or irritate you?
The data and visualisation on The New York Times website is some of the best work out there right now.

My current amusement/irritation is the potential to send your heart rate to someone with Apple's upcoming watch and the drone you wear on your wrist that flies overhead to take selfies of you.

What is your go-to piece of tech or software for lifelogging?
For the project I used tons of different software and hardware, including writing my own custom program using processing. Creating your own hardware and software is the only true way to get exactly what you want as an end result. The equipment and software I used is so different from what is available today. There are many more services for different niches that automate the process I was going through manually in Atlas of the Habitual.

For a list of actual equipment used see the project statement page at

We're creating a speculative timeline of the possible future of lifelogging. We're asking everyone to make one prediction for a future date. What's yours? Feel free to think big!
2040: Automotive paint can tell you how much it has discolored while sitting in the sun and offers the correct color codes for touchups.