Tag Archives: Research

QS | Public Health Symposium: Margaret McKenna

This week we’re taking a look back at our 2014 Quantified Self Public Health Symposium and highlighting some of the wonderful talks and presentations.  We convened this meeting in order to bring together the research and toolmaker communities. Both of these groups have questions about data, research, and how to translate the vast amount of self-tracking data into something useful and understandable for a wider audience.

As part of our pre-conference work we took some time speak with a few attendees who we thought could offer a unique perspective. One of those attendees was Margaret McKenna. Margaret leads the Data & Analytics team at RunKeeper, one of the largest health and fitness data platforms. In our conversation and in her wonderful talk below Margaret spoke about two important issues we, as a community of users, makers, and researchers, need to think about as we explore personal data for the public good.

The first of these is matching research questions with toolmaker needs and questions. We heard from Margaret and others in the toolmaker community that there is a near constant stream of requests for data from researchers exploring a variety of questions related to health and fitness. However, many of these requests do not match the questions and ideas circulating internally. For instance, she mentioned a request to examine if RunKeeper user data matched with the current physical activity guidelines. However, the breadth and depth of data available to Margaret and her team open up the possibility to re-evaulate the guidelines, perhaps making them more appropriate and personalized based on actual activity patterns.

Additionally, Margaret brought up something that we’ve heard many times in the QS community – the need to understand the context of the data and it’s true representativeness. Yes, there is a great deal of personal data being collected and it may hold some hidden truths and new understanding of the realities of human behavior, but it can only reveal what is available to it. That is, there is a risk of depending too much on data derived from QS tools for “answers” and thus leaving out those who either don’t use self-tracking or don’t have access or means to use them.

Enjoy Margaret’s talk below and keep an eye out for more posts this week from our Quantified Self Public Health Symposium.

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QSEU14 Breakout: Measuring with Muppets

Today’s post comes to us from June Lee and Jennifer Kotler. June and Jennifer are researchers at Sesame Workshop, where they are conducting work exploring children’s media use. Below you can read their description of a breakout session they led on the topic at the 2014 Quantified Self Europe Conference. If you have ideas about measuring media use or want to continue this conversation we invite you to join the discussion in the forum.

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Measuring with Muppets
by June Lee & Jennifer Kotler

The goal of the session was to exchange ideas for ways to measure and track children’s media use across contexts (which include physical spaces such as work vs. school, and social contexts such as with whom they are using media). An ideal device would be a wearable device that’s a “Shazam meets LENA,” which would identify the media content being used, as well as capture the conversation taking place around media use.

Currently, different technologies approximate what we would like to do. For instance, iBeacon is used in shopping malls to track and deliver messages to shoppers; smartwatches could be good for capturing audio; Bluetooth recognition could identify devices that are nearby and partly capture the social context. Different apps, however, don’t use the same system and are difficult to integrate. The main takeaway from the session is that nothing exists yet that does what we would like to do. We would need different apps and systems.

The session generated other useful ideas, such as the asking what parents would like to track in terms of media and their child, and what parents currently track (if they do). Another suggestion was to look at the rare disease or health care community, which is ahead of the curve in terms of tracking and managing child health; Human-Computer Interaction departments or Interaction Design departments at universities could be another good resource. Many agreed that we could start with simple, low-tech approaches: observations and/or manual paper recording. Or do the research in stages, using technology that does exist. In short, we needed to narrow our research questions because the tool we’re looking for does not (yet) exist.

Editor’s note: While doing some research around measurement and children we stumbled upon this great Sesame Street video. Enjoy Elmo singing about the power of measuring!

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QSEU14 Breakout: Cartographies of Rest

Today’s post comes to us from Josh Berson. Josh is a anthropologist and researcher at the Max Plank Institute. In the fall of 2014 Josh and his colleagues will be embarking on an ambitious research program to explore how we understand and engage in activity and rest. This research project, housed at the Hub at Wellcome Collection, is still in it’s early stages and Josh sought to discuss and gain insight into how people think about measuring activity and rest, as well as how they perceive participatory research projects. You’re invited to read Josh’s description of the session below and then join the discussion on the QS Forum.

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Cartographies of Rest
by Josh Berson

In the Cartographies of Rest breakout, we were looking for practical guidance on setting up a large study using self-tracking technologies to elicit a synoptic picture of contemporary rhythms of rest and activity in densely inhabited urban spaces. The response was great. We had participants with backgrounds in voice analysis, geovisualization, and the design of participatory public health interventions. Some of these conversations will probably lead to formal working relationships with the Hub at Wellcome Collection, the umbrella project under which Cartographies of Rest is being carried out.

But the key insight we came away with had little to do with the technical apparatus or tracking channels for the study. Rather, it was that we would do well to present the demands we’re making of our research participants not as an inconvenience but as an opportunity to be part of an innovative collective approach to generating knowledge about how we move (and stop moving) through shared space. We need to make sure the design of the study, and the way we communicate the study’s aims to participants, reflects our core conceit, to wit, that activity and rest are social phenomena, and their physiological and behavioral correlates are conditioned by social context, not the other way around. In contrast to previous “reality mining” studies, we’re not looking to study the evolution of a preexisting social network, and in fact we’d been thinking recruitment would need to stratify against too many preexisting relationships among participants, since that might confound the rest:activity timelines they generate as individuals. We were also concerned with how to control for the fact that participating in the study would lead participants to change their behavior.

But if, instead, we focus on creating a community among the participants, and on letting the fact that participating in the study will inevitably change their behavior (through new relationships, through new concern, individually, for how active and restful they’re being) be part of what we’re looking at, we will end up with results that have greater translational value and are truer to the aspirations to self- (as well as social) improvement out of which self-tracking methods originate

If you’re interested in exploring tracking activity and rest we invite you to head to our forum to join the discussion on the QS Forum.

Image by Ian Forrester

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The State of Self Tracking (QS London Survey)

The excellent organizers of the London Quantified Self Show&Tell recently fielded a detailed survey about the self-tracking practices in their group. In the video below Ulrich Atz presents their findings.

Some of the interesting results from the survey:

  • 105 respondents (22 identified as female, 76 as male).
  • Over 500 unique tools were being used.
  • 47% of the respondents are currently measuring weight (17% have in the past).
  • Pen & paper is being used by 28% of respondents.
  • 90% of respondents who answered a question about data sharing would share their data (or share it for medical research).

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The presentation is available online here (PDF) and an aggregate view of the survey results is also available for you to explore here. We’re excited to see and learn more from this interesting data set in the future.

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The Quantified Self Institute

We are excited to be bringing a scientific and research track to the upcoming 2014 QS Europe Conference. We’ve been pushed and prodded by many of our friends in the QS community to make this happen. Today we’re highlighting one of those friends and collaborators, the Quantified Self Institute. Read below to learn more about their work and then register for the conference to join the conversation in person!

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In 2012 the Hanze University of Applied Science founded the Quantified Self Institute (QSI) in collaboration with Quantified Self Labs. The mission of QSI is to encourage a healthy lifestyle through technology, science, and fun. We aim to bring the knowledge and experience of the QS community and the science community together in order to learn from each other.

We are a multidisciplinary group of researchers and teachers who work together with a network of universities, health care institutions and industry partners on personalized science, health and self-tracking.

We focus on the Big Five for Healthy Life (physical activity, food, sleep, stress & relaxation and social interaction) and conduct research on the availability, validity, and efficacy of self-tracking technologies.

Our ultimate goal is to find out by what means and to what extend self-tracking is useful for personal health. We look forward to exploring and along with worldwide QS Community. We hope you join us at the upcoming 2014 QS Europe Conference!

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Submit Your Quantified Self Research

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We’ve been holding Quantified Self Conferences since 2011. Every year since then we’ve been approached by scientists and researchers in the academic community to help them find a way to incorporate their work and their ideas into our structure. After a few years of holding back, listening, and watching the research community become engaged with other scientists and the real-world QS practitioners we’re ready to take that next step.

We are excited to announce today that we are inviting scientists and non-scientists to join a research oriented poster session at our upcoming Quantified Self European Conference on May 10th and 11th.

These sessions are a way for us to support interesting work that doesn’t fit into our established show&tell format, including research results from academic and scientific studies relevant to QS practitioners. Possible topics include (but are not limited to):

  • Validity, reliability, usability, and effectiveness of self-tracking devices
  • Experiment design
  • Statistical and/or visualization methods
  • Social and psychological investigation into self-tracking practices
  • Social science research on the QS community

Our hope is that these posters and the conversations around them will help us (scientists and non-scientists) learn from each other, stimulate new ideas/projects, and to uncover new applications for the research findings.

How to submit a poster

The process is very simple. Simply send us a draft of your poster submission via email. We will be accepting submissions until April 14, 2014.  For format and other info, please read the instructions below. The posters will be reviewed for content and relevance; if you would like to be involved with the review process, or have any questions, please contact us.

Details

Posters should contain the following elements:

  • Title
  • Authors and affiliations
  • Sections:
    • Background
    • Method
    • Results
    • Discussion/Conclusions
    • QS Relevance
  • Contact information. We recommend including a picture of yourself so others at the conference can find you, and, if applicable, your twitter account.

Format:

  • You must use the A0 size (841 × 1189mm or 33.11 × 46.81 inches)
  • A PowerPoint template is provided for you to use.

Remember to Keep It Short and Simple (KISS). We want to stimulate creativity and strongly recommend the use of tables, figures, and visualizations. For examples and design tips we recommend the following articles:

Dates & Deadlines

Deadline for submission is April 14, 2014. We will conducting reviews and informing submitters of acceptance on a continual basis. All submitters will be notified by April 21, 2014. We look forward to seeing your inspiriting projects and findings.

Submit your poster now!





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The State of Self-Tracking

(Co-written with Gary Wolf)

In January we started asking ourselves, “How many people self-track?”  It was an interesting question that stemmed from our discussion with Susannah Fox about the recent Pew report on Tracking for Health. Here’s a quick recap of the discussion so far.

The astute Brian Dolan of MobiHealthNews suggested that the Pew data on self-tracking for health seems to show constant – not growing – participation. According to Pew, in 2012 only 11% of adults track their health using mobile apps, up from 9% in 2011.

All this in the context of a massive increase in smartphone use. Pew data shows smartphone ownership rising 20% just in the last year, and this shows no signs of slowing down. Those smartphones are not just super-connected tweeting machines. They pack a variety of powerful sensors and technologies that can be used for self-tracking apps. We notice a lot of people using these, but our sample is skewed toward techies and scientists.

What is really going on in the bigger world? How many people are actually tracking?

A few weeks ago ABI, a market research firm, released a report on Wearable Computing Devices. According to the report there will be an estimated 485 million wearable computing devices shipped by 2018. Josh Flood, the analyst behind this report indicated that they estimated that 61% of all devices in wearable market are fitness or activity trackers. “Sports and fitness will continue to be the largest in shipments,” he mentioned “but we’ll start to see growth in other areas such as watches, cameras, and glasses.”

One just needs to venture into their local electronics retailer to see that self-tracking devices are becoming more widespread. So why are our observations out of synch with the Pew numbers?

The answer may lie in the framing of the Pew questions as “self-tracking for health?” For instance:

On your cell phone, do you happen to have any software applications or “apps” that help you track or manage your health, or not?

Thinking about the health indicator you pay the most attention to, either for yourself or someone else (an adult you provide unpaid care for), how do you keep track of changes? Do you use paper, like a notebook or journal, a computer program, like a spreadsheet, a website or other online tool, an app or other tool on your phone or mobile device, a medical device, like a glucose meter, or do you keep track just in your head?

We think it is likely that many practices we include in our definition of Quantified Self are not being captured by the Pew Research. A person who tracks a daily run with a Garmin GPS watch might show up in the wearables data that ABI looks at, and might look to us as a self-tracker for health, but might be invisible to Pew. There may be even self-tracking practices that fall outside health or wearables. We’ve seen a large number of people who track time and productivity using computer applications such as RescueTime, apps that support well-being such as meditation trackers, mood trackers, and diet trackers; and apps that support general self-reflection and journaling, such as a life-logging app. Many self-tracking practices do not fit neatly into “health.” (Though they may influence health!)

In a way, there is a parallel here to what we found when we compared Fitbit with Fuelband data. Both of them produced different numbers for “steps.” When we got into the details, we ended up thinking that this was not a matter of one being closer to the “ground truth,” but of intentionally different interpretations of messy accelerometer data. Fitbit gives more step credit for general movement, because it is a lifestyle/activity tracker; Nike might prefer to credit intentional exercise, since the Nike brand sits closer to sports. Context matters.

This confusion about what is health tracking, what fits in the frame, is closely analogous to many other confusions in the conversation about health generally. It is common now in the healthcare world to talk about how the larger determinants of public health are outside the control of the healthcare industry; for instance, diet, exercise, stress, and exposure to environmental toxins. Sometimes people who make these observations follow them with a call for the healthcare industry to begin addressing these larger concerns; for instance, to “medicalize” tracking apps by making them prescribable and reimbursable by health insurers.

But maybe this isn’t the only approach. If the “healthcare” frame isn’t adequate to capture the most important determinants of health, we could try switching frames. What our journey through the self-tracking data suggests is that the opposite approach might be useful to consider: start with the bigger world of self-care practices, and enhance these. Why? Because that’s where we trackers already are. That is, how are we deriving meaning from self-tracking? That’s the mental framework that we typically use, and that we like to use. That’s where the growth – in terms both of us, and of cultural understanding, engagement, and knowledge-making – might really be happening.

We don’t know this for sure. We take the Pew data as evidence that this approach is worth trying.

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One in four adult internet users track their own health data online

This is one of the findings in the amazing Susannah Fox‘s recent report for Pew Internet, part of the Pew Research Center.

The report is called The Social Life of Health Information, and has several interesting findings. Here is an excerpt:

Carol Torgan, a health science strategist, points out that anyone who makes note of their blood pressure, weight, or menstrual cycle could be categorized as a “self-tracker.”10 Add an online component, and you have the ingredients for a social health application or an electronic health record. Our survey finds that 15% of internet users have tracked their weight, diet, or exercise routine online. In addition, 17% of internet users have tracked any other health indicators or symptoms online.  Fully 27% of adult internet users say yes to either question.

Wireless users are more likely than other internet users to track health data online. Eighteen percent of wireless users have tracked their weight, diet, or exercise routine online, compared with 9% of internet users who do not have a wireless-enabled laptop or other device. Nineteen percent of wireless users have tracked any other health indicators or symptoms online, compared with 11% of non-wireless internet users.

Separately, looking just at the 85% of adults who own a cell phone, 9% say they have software applications or “apps” on their phones that help them track or manage their health.

 

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Announcing: the Quantified Self Forum

By popular request, we have just launched a global QS forum at: http://forum.quantifiedself.com/

Gary, Dan Dascalescu, and I took some exciting topics from the conference and turned them into forum discussions, with expert moderators to help explore ideas and answer questions. You’ll find discussions on:

- Apps & Tools, moderated by Dan Dascalescu

Data Ownership & Privacy, moderated by Ryan Calo

Design, moderated by Steve Dean

Habit Change, moderated by Ernesto Ramirez and Gary Isaac Wolf

Fitness, moderated by Alexandra Carmichael and Dan Dascalescu

Learning & Cognition, moderated by Nick Winter

Medical tests, moderated by Dave Asprey

Mood, moderated by Margie Morris

Nutrition, moderated by Alexandra Carmichael and Dan Dascalescu

Sleep, moderated by Alexandra Carmichael and Gary Isaac Wolf

Self Experimentation, moderated by Seth Roberts

QS Startups, moderated by Eri Gentry and Ernesto Ramirez

QS Research & Media, moderated by Rajiv Mehta

QS Open Forum for any Quantified Self topic not covered above, moderated by Alexandra Carmichael and Gary Isaac Wolf

Please join in the conversations, ask questions, share what you’ve learned, and come play with us!

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Recruiting self-trackers for a Masters thesis study

As far as I know, Adam Butterfield is the first person doing his Master’s thesis on the subject of the Quantified Self. He wrote in with this request:

Calling all self-trackers! My name is Adam Butterfield, and I am a graduate student in the department of Anthropology at San Jose State University conducting research on Quantified Self and self-tracking practices. I am looking to recruit people that are willing to be interviewed about Quantified Self and self-tracking/self-experimenting from their perspective.

The interviews will be about one hour in length and I expect that we will need two sessions to cover all the questions. There is no compensation offered for participating other than knowing that you have helped contribute to this research project and added to the body of knowledge around health management and self-tracking. Interviews can take place in person, over the telephone, or via Skype.

If you are interested in participating in the project, please contact me for more information at the following email address:  adam.butterfield@ymail.com.

Thank you!

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