Sean Munson

2016 Seminar Series

From Personal Data to Action: Making Personal Informatics Work

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 more than 5,000 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.

2014 Seminar Series

Getting More Value from Personal Informatics Data, Alone and Together

We have entered the age of personal informatics, with connected devices and mobile applications that enable people to track a variety information. Health and wellness data is one of the most commonly tracked data types; 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, Munson will discuss early efforts and challenges to helping people gain more value from their personal informatics data, both individually and in collaboration with others.

2013 Seminar Series

Beyond the Share Button: Challenges and Opportunities for Social Features in Wellness Interventions

Many health and wellness applications -- both research prototypes and those available on the open market -- include features that let people share their goals, activities, and progress. How to best design such features, however, is not well understood. Despite the widespread adoption of these features, Sean Munson's research finds that many people feel barriers toward using these features and that, when used, they have negative unintended consequences. In this talk, Professor Munson will review results from three studies: field studies with a social application designed to promote happiness and a mobile application to promote physical activity and one study of the ways that people meet health goals using existing social sites. These studies, along with the results of other researchers, highlight both the potential for social features in health and wellness applications and challenges associated with their effective use. Professor Munson will conclude by reviewing current work and highlighting some questions for future research.

About Sean Munson

Sean Munson 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.