34,000 Minutes of Music in 1 Year.

As 2015 drew to a close, Spotify launched a microsite, titled “Year in Music,” that provided users with statistics about their behavior on the platform.  Simply log in and Spotify deliver a personalized recap of your past year of tunes.  The focus was on big picture, high level stats that users love.

In full transparency, I included a video clip of my own Spotify-powered “Year in Music” based on my actual usage of the platform.


If you want to log on to Spotify and get your own stats, you can do so here.

Besides showing what random songs I became obsessed with one day while in the library and played on repeat, Spotify’s Year in Music is a visualization of all the data I generate on one single platform in one single year.  In terms of platforms, Spotify isn’t even one of the ones I use most often.  I can’t imagine the amount of data that other platforms have about me.

It’s cool to know and makes for good conversation and comparison among friends, but the stats aren’t life changing for me.

Some other stats that other platforms have on me are potentially life changing.

The Quantified Self is a movement that is grounded in self-knowledge based on data.  It’s not exactly a new phenomenon.  We’ve always tracked ourselves.  When you go to an annual doctor visit, your health is compared to your last visit.  The difference is now, we have technology.  And tracking isn’t limited to the professionals are to time consuming paper records.  Its ubiquitous.

There’s even curated lists (like this one) of products designed to help you track your life.

One such product is a pair of capri running pants from the company Lumo that tracks your biometrics and gives you tips on ways to improve your form in real time.  Because motivating yourself to run just a little bit farther to the next block or tree wasn’t hard enough without someone critiquing you….But I’ll admit there are some potential benefits—especially for serious athletes or for people looking to improve their run form for health reasons (ex. knee/ankle issues).

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Data collection is ubiquitous in the world of smart “things.”  And, having Spotify tell you that you listed to Maroon 5’s new album is a fun way to reminisce about that one summer where you lived in that apartment where the water turned cold too fast, but you didn’t care because all your friends lived just a short walk away and you had a regular brunch place.  The stakes were and are low.  Take a step towards biometrics, home security, financial information, location tracking, and suddenly data collection becomes less spontaneously chill and more a never-ending loop of “What If” questions running through your mind.

Is it true that you don’t realize you’re on a slippery slope until it’s too late?  Where does this slope end?

8 comments

  1. This post caught my attention immediately because for the past few years I have absolutely loved looking at Spotify’s year in music. My biggest takeaway from it after the first year I used it was a sense of awareness. Of course I thought it was possible to track all of this data, but did I think it was being looked at previously? No, but once I saw that it was, this year I could guess what my top songs were (pretty accurately, too.) So ultimately my view is that once we have a heightened awareness, then we can better utilize social media in general.

  2. Personally I think that trackers are a great thing. Step tracking devices such as Fitbit or Jawbone encourage users to take more steps and to be aware of how many calories they are burning; this can help to fight obesity in America. Similarly, the Dexcom app allows people with diabetes to track their blood sugar numbers on their phone and to share that information with friends/family in case that person’s blood sugar becomes dangerously low. At least within healthcare I’m very excited by all of the new ways to track and share data and ultimately think these devices can help to save lives and prevent disease.

  3. Great post! I agree with Nicole, I think the information being tracked about us is largely beneficial for us. Obviously there are serious security implications of such practices, but I think in general, the data about us that is being used improves many aspects of our life. I think that especially online, the data that I voluntarily (and usually knowingly) is used to improve my experience, both online and off. Interesting post on a pretty polarizing topic.

  4. Really enjoyed this! Spotify use this kind of self-knowledge based data just as a cool feature, but this is exactly the kind of thing that Netflix use to enhance their recommendations. And just to show you how seriously they take it, remember that they offered a $1 million prize to the team that could improve their recommendation algorithm by just 10%. So this is clearly something that companies value a lot because it gives them insight into what customers purchase, but also how customers purchase, which includes all sorts of patterns that the company can use to influence their customers in order to bring them back.

  5. I’m a regular Spotify user and I guess I never checked out this feature; seems awesome though! I like how you connected Year in Music to the conversation about big data usage and collection. Is it a slippery slope? Yes, I tend to think it is. Once you’ve begun to load the web with your information, it’s hard to keep yourself from continuing that pattern, especially as more valuable apps and sites appear. I can’t think of more than a few people our age who don’t operate a social media profile of some kind, who don’t use their debit cards or credit cards to make purchases, things like that. The slippery slope might exist, but it’s unbelievably hard to avoid and remains mostly beneficial for the majority.

  6. Really liked this post! And Spotify’s Year in Music feature. It’s short, sweet, and cute, and gives all the “good” information I want, like that I basically only listened to Beyoncé for an entire year. But I also share in some of your concern. This type of data collection is a slippery slope. We often talk about the line between useful or creepy in class, but I definitely think that society is coming to a place where everything will be useful and nothing will be creepy. Soon, giving almost all of our information to a computer will be the normal thing to do.

  7. So, when people visit our house for the summer (we have a place at the Cape, and get ALOT of visitors) , we play a game called Spotify Jukebox. We pass around a laptop connected to bluetooth speakers, and everyone picks a song inspired by the last one. Since we have all sorts of intergenerational guest, the game takes on a different flavor each time. NYE the theme was “songs you really like but are ashamed to admit it.” Hilarious.

  8. Wow this was an awesome post! I checked out the Year in Music thing too, so thanks for that as well. I like how your post took a turn at the end to think about the future of data collection; I’d thought of the usefulness it could provide after long periods of time (like Spotify) but the fact that a pair of pants could provide real-time running advice was beyond my scope. It will be interesting to see how privacy concerns fit in to this aspect of big data collection, much like users currently using Facebook to log into sites have to trade off utility for privacy. It seems human behavior data is becoming one of the most profitable items in this day and age, and that’s a tad unsettling.

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