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17 June 2014

Self-tracking versus other-tracking: Reflections from the BodyTrack project

Location: Meeting Room 10, 2nd Floor, JLB
Time: 12:30pm - 13:45pm
Speaker(s): Anne Wright - CREATE Lab at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA

In this talk, Anne Wright of the BodyTrack project draws a distinction between self-tracking and other-tracking, argues that the issues of interest regarding privacy and access differ in the two cases, and describes why she feels that proper support for the self-tracking use case is important. In her view, both of these types of endeavor involve harnessing data generated by and pertaining to a given individual's life. Both gather such data under a given protocol and perform assessments on that data in an effort to achieve certain results. She defines self-tracking as the subset of such endeavors where the individual who's life it is is the agent setting the protocol, deciding on and performing the assessments, and benefitting from the results. She defines other-tracking as the remainder of such endeavors, where other parties play one or more of those roles. She feels that this distinction is important and generally overlooked, particularly in media accounts which use the phrases "self tracking" or "quantified self" while actually describing other-tracking scenarios. Issues of how to protect the individual from the power differentials, potential abuses, and conflicts of interest inherent in other-tracking dominate the public dialog, which is definitely an important set of issues for us to address. However, she sees issues of access, personal agency, and designing in proper support for the individual to direct how and where their personal data does and does not flow as being key in self-tracking and frequently ignored, or subsumed by restrictions based around the assumption of other-tracking scenarios. Anne will share her viewpoint and experiences gained through four years of guiding the BodyTrack project in building systems and culture to support individuals in engaging in self-tracking. BIO: Anne Wright is Principal Investigator for the BodyTrack project in the CREATE Lab at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA. She received B.S. and M.Eng. degrees in EECS from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1996. In 1998 she joined the Intelligent Robotics Group at NASA Ames Research Center where she served as Lead Systems Engineer for Prototype Mars Rovers. While at Ames, Anne became interested in how to harness sensing and data visualization technologies and techniques originally developed for the rovers to help people “debug” diffuse environmentally related conditions such as allergies, food sensitivities, asthma and migraine triggers, etc. She co-founded the BodyTrack Project at CMU in 2010 to support developing a movement towards health empowerment for people affected by such diffuse conditions, including open-source technology development, aggregation and visualization of self-tracking data, development of common data formats and APIs, and cultural engineering.

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Contact: mailto:paul.piwek@open.ac.uk