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.

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.