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Rakawa in the Age of Quantified Self
Soenke Ziesche   Jun 16, 2015   Ethical Technology  

Seven years, ago when microblogging was still fairly new, I co-launched Inspired by the work of the Japanese conceptual artist On Kawara, (photo below) Rakawa is a tool to document daily accomplishments by entering a response of up to 150 characters to the question “What have you achieved today?” Optionally a picture for illustration can be added.

The unique features compared with other microblogging services were the artistic reference to Kawara’s pioneering work and simultaneously the uplift of microblogging to another level.

On Kawara

While micro-blogging was generally considered as an invention of the Noughties, Kawara could be described as a micro-blogger of the sixties, though using other media. For example, in his “I Got Up At” series of postcards, which he sent to numerous friends, he indicated merely the time he got up that particular morning. His book series “I Met”  and “I Went”  depicts lists of the people he met and places he saw in the 1960s and 1970s.

The other feature is the concise update about the achievement of the day. (Rakawa allows only one entry by day per user.) On our “about” page we portray it as follows:

“Let’s face it, every day we crave accomplishments and here is the place to keep track of them. Isn’t there something every day, which isn’t necessarily a step on the moon, but your own small or even often not-so-small achievement? Rakawa provides a convenient record of individual achievements and also aims to stimulate and encourage others.”

Several years passed and we were not able to promote the site in the way we wanted to.  Also, sadly, On Kawara passed away in 2014. He remained a very elusive figure. His death was actually “announced” on Rakawa (10 Jul 2014  and 11 Jul 2014)  earlier than in the New York Times (15 Jul 2014).

So, what is the current raison d’être for Rakawa? It is to offer a stylish alternative for the continuously growing quantified self movement.

It is not a precise Excel sheet and it’s not updated automatically through sensors, which often creates data overload, but it provides users the opportunity towards the end of the day to actively reflect for a moment and to phrase what she or he considers as his or her achievement of the day. 

Moreover, there are quantifiable achievements (“I did 25 push-ups”) and non-quantifiable ones (“I visited my grandmother in the hospital.”). The latter ones may be as important, but impossible to be captured by any tracking devises.

Image #1 - On Kawara


Soenke Ziesche holds a PhD in Natural Sciences from the University of Hamburg, which he received within a Doctoral Program in Artificial Intelligence. He is also an alumnus of the Graduate Studies Program of the Singularity University. Soenke has worked in the past 15 years for the United Nations on four continents in the humanitarian and development sector.

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