Medical data is oddly impersonal considering its personal origins. How can people engage with, internalize and process medical data (or any data…) if it does not relate to them in a personalized way? How can the data be actionable or meaningful if we engage with it in binary contexts of numbers that are good or bad and devices that turn on and off.

How do we make our data actionable? Whether it is your activity data, your diabetes data or your cholesterol data. Health care design right now is largely focused on data and technology and rooted in behaviorism. It does not account for the idiosyncratic and personal nature of our bodies or ourselves. Through personal and creative interactions with our own experience of the data, we cultivate visual mnemonics that we can engage with. Through understanding and engaging with our data in a personal way is becomes meaningful and valuable.



“The pump doesn’t feel like me, it's accepted that it is me, but that’s the thing, if I get sick of diabetes I get sick of me.” 
- Shawn

There is a physical and behavioral impact of the aesthetics of the device (Harry Harlow). The person who is dependent is secure (security also means ability to explore and learn) when it knows that the device will not break. There is a cultural obsession with autonomy where inter-dependence and dependence are undesirable. (Abler) 


“A sensor is really good, it takes all this data, but it messed up my thinking…it made me very cautious about what I ate, I stopped eating when I saw any spike. I lost too much weight, it started a vicious cycle.” - Daniella

Creative expression is a powerful way to understand and take ownership of experience. The blood sugar number is often taken as a judgment and not as information to act on. It becomes informational when it is in context. The experience around the blood sugar number is needed to feel ownership and agency over the data in order to make it powerful and meaningful to the person whose data it is.


We don’t need more technology – we need better systems/methods of using the technology we have. We are further along at understanding machines than we are at understanding ourselves. We can’t change our behavior through data or through devices if we don’t understand how we internalize the information they provide us with.

Behavior change is dependent upon relationships and connections – with social networks, family and peers but also with the ever increasing and more available personal data and the technology that we interact with. To understand behavior we must first understand the relationships we have on an emotional, psychological and physical level.

Behavior change doesn’t happen over a few weeks. People don’t usually change dramatically. The kind that lasts is when it is integrated, when it becomes not just a routine, but also a part of ones character. True behavior change is a transformation, a lifestyle or an identity shift. It happens little by little.

  • Date : Sept - Dec 2009
  • Context : Thesis project at CIID 2009

Advisor: Jamie Allen