, , , ,


A grand round at Albany Medical Center September 7, 2016 from 11:00am – 12:00pm presented by Candice Lanius, a doctoral candidate in the Dept. of Communication and Media at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

Description: The quantified self movement promises data-driven perfection to anyone willing to go beyond their own meager perceptive abilities by recording every aspect of their daily life. Self-tracking involves meticulously recording behaviors over a period of time, then analyzing them for patterns that will point towards optimization strategies. Inputs—such as hours of sleep, nutrition, and exercise—are correlated to mood, health, and socialization, among other outputs. For the QS movement, any item than can be captured as queryable data is recorded, processed, and scrutinized for insights into the individual’s life. With the ubiquity of mobile sensing technologies (e.g. smartphones and other sensors in the ‘internet of things’), self-tracking has taken the stage as a potential gold mine for the medical profession. Rather than asking the patient to remember their symptoms and activities while collecting a patient history, self-tracking allows the patient to record symptoms and experiences as they occur, removing the weakness of human memory from the equation. While self-tracking is a promising new avenue for scientific discovery and individual treatment, like all technologies, self-tracking introduces new challenges for both the scientific community and individuals using self-tracking as part of a therapeutic intervention.

This talk introduces a rhetorical framework for cataloguing the changes that a self-tracking strategy exerts on the individual, thereby helping practitioners understand and avoid the unforeseen consequences of hastily implementing this new technology. Rhetoric, when applied to situations where patients use mobile sensor technologies to record their behavior, uncovers how the act of recording behavior can fundamentally alter it. By walking through a series of examples, from nutrition tracking to mood analysis, this talk explores how tracking apps change how we communicate experiences and the type of trust that informs the patient-doctor relationship. A starting point is asking what, precisely, the self-tracking apps record to understand the limitations for their use in screening and treatment. While self-tracking apps can be helpful, they also contain moments of tension or “anxieties” where their design and function interfere with daily life. A balanced understanding of these tradeoffs will assist in future design and deployment of self-tracking technologies for therapeutic goals.