From Personal Data to Personal Health: Tools to Reduce Burden and Improve Collaboration

25 May 2018

Understanding and managing one's health often requires tracking one's behaviors, context, and outcomes. People increasingly turn to digital tools to help record and make sense of these data. Despite some successes, many people still struggle to fit this tracking into their everyday lives or to find actionable insights in the resulting data.

In this talk, I will use food tracking — an important tool for supporting many health goals — as an example to illustrate current practices and promising design approaches. While people do use current health and tracking tools to support health and wellness, they also encounter many barriers to collecting, reflecting, and acting on their data. Techniques that reduce the burdens associated with these activities can better help people achieve their goals.

People also turn to others, such as peers and health experts, for help understanding and acting on their health data. While these collaborations may help people access additional expertise, they can also falter due to misunderstandings, mis-aligned goals, or tools that are only designed for one user. I will show how designing for collaboration from the start of tracking can help people more efficiently and effectively manage their health.

Slides (111 MB PDF)


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.

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

Seattle, WA 98195
Pronouns: he / him