One Human Heartbeat

I’ve put my heartbeat on the internet.

Jen has made something really beautiful here. I took a look at it last night before she put the about page up and was mesmerized by the pulsing. The progression around the circle. My breathing changed and I became very aware of my own heartbeat. My eyes wandered to the bottom left. Days lived. And then… expected days remaining. My heart took a dive into my stomach. I am going to die someday. There are two columns; and, every twenty-four hours, a day is plucked from “remaining” and placed into “lived”. I know this intellectually, but it has never not been shocking when I’ve been reminded that my time here is finite.

It being late, and me being kind of dense, I didn’t think to guess that the heartbeat was actually Jen’s. This is a kind of connection through technology I never even thought about.

The heartrate you see is from 24 hours ago. This is because the data can only be accessed via usb connection. Twice a day I connect the watch and upload my latest heartrates to the database. I’ve been doing this for 33 days now.

The delay actually makes it seem simultaneously more clinical and personal.[1] For one thing, Jen has to interact with machines to upload this part of herself into the ’base.[2] This is probably a stretch, but I think that even though it’s as simple as plugging in a usb cable, it represents a physical interaction between the biological and digital worlds that is both methodical and regular. And that’s a major part of how we think about science and medicine getting done. [3] At the same time, that action is also another layer of thoughtfulness and personal dedication to the project that wouldn’t be there if Jen were able to somehow stream her heartbeat.

  1. Although, I’m sure anyone doing this would the convenience of a once a day wireless sync.  ↩

  2. “’base” sounds way more cyberpunk than any alternative I could think of. Calling Jen’s laptop, “machines” was also for cyberpunk purposes.  ↩

  3. It’s also the part that seems to make us uncomfortable most of the time. Think about how often people fixate on the wires or tubes connected to a patient, or the beeping of a heartrate monitor.  ↩