hwi•ðəɹ ?

Ok, with my new HR watch it seems I can play with what I hinted at a while ago—observing my bodies response to gradient. In the Garmin Connect interface data graph this relationship will appear as a simple reciprocation—the gradient steepens and so my pace falls and my heart rate increases. In this neat simplification there will be all manner of minor data errors of course—I may still not have the watch set up exactly; stride length calculated from my height may be inaccurate; the HRM light may be mis-calculating my HR from my pulse; the GPS may make slight locational slips; and so on.

Beyond these ‘technical’ errors there will also be a slight time delay occurring for my HR will not increase the instant I hit the climb and it will not settle back to comfortable the minute I crest the top of a hill—visually the HR line will be appear slightly offset from the other data lines. But these are minor quibbles. Where the data in all their forms become interesting is in the matter of what they have done to the run/walked experience; the impossibility of what they are conveying as I look back over a run as a cold, detached observer. God-like I scan the duration of my expedition at a remove.

Even when we acknowledge that this is a mere slice from a lived experience there is still something odd in having this durational slice set edgewise to be analysed in a chronological, left to right form. This is a highly edited and stylised view of landscape, a sanitised one too unless you can translate from the graph’s peaks my exertions. I recall Vybarr Cregan-Reid speaking at a conference at Goldsmiths earlier this year and he likened the i-Phone (other brands, etc.) to today’s version of the Claude glass (and he is by no means alone in this observation).1 And so it seems my running watch is also a Claude glass of sorts. The black object strapped to my wrist is merely offering one more viewpoint (or several viewpoints combined) and giving ‘its’ picture of things via the data it lodges at Garmin Connect.

The watch unit itself is not working alone of course. The technology it incorporates has been developed over a number of years, there have been cultural shifts that have led to a desire for this sort of knowledge and it also needs to be strapped to a living being—it is quite particular about who (or what) it measures the exertions of. These flows come together at a point on my left wrist where I must “wear the Forerunner device above [my] wristbone, and fasten the band tightly around [my] wrist to ensure proper heart rate detection.”2 In this action of converging the flows become hardened into graphic forms—the fuzziness of the run experience slips away.

I attempt to fly above and around the linear-locked traces and trying hard the line of elevation (subtle though it is) spreads itself out into its topographic form but the HR, cadence and pace stubbornly remain streamers of (spent) energy—the GPS locks them into a set of co-ordinates that, in turn, fix them to a point on this earth at a unique time. The data from the watch are a discovery but it is what we can invent from them that offers intrigue.


[1] Vybarr Cregan-Reid, “Coleridge’s Fingers” paper delivered at Environments: Landscapes and the mind at Goldsmiths, London 19th June 2015. For a similar link see Charlie Sorrell, “The Claude Mirror aka The 18th Century Instagram,” Cult of Mac, accessed 3rd November 2015, http://www.cultofmac.com/162294/the-claude-mirror-aka-the-18th-century-instagram.
[2] Garmin, Forerunner®225: Quick Start Manual (Taiwan, 2015), 3.

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