From Personal Data to Action: Making Personal Informatics Work

Wednesday, 26 October 2016
Current Issues in Human Centered Design and Engineering

Fitness tracking devices, smartphone applications, and other tools that help people automatically track data about every facet of their lives are becoming increasingly prevalent. There are now thousands of health tracking applications in the iOS app store, and many others for tracking data such as location, mood, productivity, and finances. Despite considerable interest in improving the collection aspect of self-tracking, there has been little research on how technology can improve the reflection aspect of self-tracking. Consequently, people are often overwhelmed by the data they collect, do not know what conclusions to draw, and become frustrated or discontinue use.

In this talk, Dr. Munson will discuss different ways that people use self-track technologies, with a particular focus on how people share their data to receive support, collaboratively interpret it, and act. By sharing with friends and peers, people can gain emotional and instrumental support, get advice, and find sources of accountability, but only if they share in ways that effectively engage their support networks. For harder to diagnosis or manage challenges, such as several chronic illnesses, people need to engage their health providers or other experts in their data. Current tools, however, do not adequately support this collaboration; Dr. Munson will discuss some promising directions for new tools.

Slides (75MB PDF) · UW TV


Sean is an Assistant Professor at the University of Washington's Department of Human Centered Design and Engineering and a member of the DUB group. Working primarily in the domains of health and wellbeing and exposure to diverse information, he designs and evaluates techniques for helping people make sense of data about themselves and the world around them.

Sean completed a BS in Engineering at Olin College in 2006 and his PhD at the University of Michigan's School of Information in 2012. Previously, Sean was a political blogger and, while working at Boeing, designed concepts for future passenger airplane interiors. He is a recipient of an NSF CAREER Award.

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