Getting more value from behavioral self-monitoring

Tuesday, 6 May 2014, 12n
UW Health Sciences, Room T-663

We have entered the age of personal informatics, with connected devices and mobile applications that enable people to track a variety of health and wellness information. Over 69% of United States adults currently track a health factor, with 14% using technology to so do (Pew). These numbers will continue to rise, as new sensing removes barriers to long-term, ubiquitous personal monitoring.

Less clear, however, how much value people gain from these additional tracking abilities. More data creates more opportunities for understanding one’s behavior or symptoms, the factors which influence it, and opportunities for improvement. Review of this data to produce actionable information, however, can be challenging for individual trackers, the support networks with whom they share it, and their medical team. In this talk, I will discuss early efforts and challenges to helping people gain more value from their personal informatics data, both individually and in collaboration with others.

Slides (30MB PDF) · Lifelogs paper (first half of talk)

Bio Sean is an Assistant Professor at the UW's Department of Human Centered Design and Engineering and a member of the dub group. He studies the use of software to support behavior changes. His work primarily focuses on the domains of political news and opinion access and health and wellness. Sean completed a BS in Engineering with a concentration in Systems Design at Olin College in 2006 and his PhD at the University of Michigan's School of Information in 2012. He has been a political blogger and, while working at Boeing, designed concepts for future passenger airplane interiors.
Taming Lifelogs

As people continue to adopt technology-based self-tracking devices and applications, questions arise about how personal informatics tools can better support self-tracker goals. Thus far, improvements to our capabilities for sensing and collecting data have vastly outpaced self-trackers' abilities to make sense of this data. In this project, we examine self-trackers' goals and how technology can better support them. Thus far, we have designed cuts — a subset of collected data with some shared feature — and corresponding visualizations (DIS 2014). Combinations of cuts and visualizations offer more actionable feedback than many curent lifelog visualizations, but more work is needed to determine which cuts make sense for which goals, users, and contexts, and how and when to best present them.


We are building, deploying, and evaluating a series of applications designed to support various aspects of wellness. This work will identify ways to build applications that use social infleunce to support health behavior change. Published work includes a study of how people use Facebook and Online Health Communities to support health goals (CSCW 2011) and a study of a social version of a positive psychology exercise (Persuasive 2010). This project has been funded by Intel and the University of Michigan Rackham Graduate School.

Research platforms: 3GT · GoalPost (manual)

smunson at uw dot edu
423B Sieg Hall
Campus Box 352315

Seattle, WA 98195