A project proposal for a self-care system that helps me observe and improve my swimming form.
We talked about our own personal experiences of health and well-being to identify common themes. We found that we had experienced the feeling of being overwhelmed by options, choices, activities, people, places – the day to day disturbances that shape our levels of stress and happiness.
We initially thought that we would design a system whereby the user would make a list of decisions or items that were causing stress, with an inner loop monitoring their progress as they complete individual items. This system was just too general to be able to model – e.g. every different type of item had a different approach to sensing.
We continued on the theme of stress management, but focused on one item that helped us all manage stress – physical activity. We identified that exercise helped us maintain physical fitness and a sense of rhythm in our lives.
We decided to model a system that would help us monitor our stress levels and define a level of exercise relative to that stress level.
The goal of our system is to help a user maintain their level of stress.
The outer loop’s goal is to help the user maintain a target level of stress by defining an amount of exercise to be undertaken.
- The sensor is a manual test – every day the user assess their stress level from 1-7. For each point on the scale an amount of exercise is defined.
- The system compares the current stress reading with the previous reading.
- If there is a change, the amount of exercise is changed.
- If there is no change, the amount of exercise is maintained.
- The target environment is the amount of exercise planned.
- Possible disturbances include a lack of available time (if we only have 5 minutes to spare, defining one hour’s exercise is problematic)
The inner loop’s goal is to help the user complete the amount of exercise by comparing the amount they have completed to the amount required.
- The sensor is the user’s watch or clock. The user checks the number of minutes of exercise completed against the amount required.
- The system compares the amount completed to the required amount.
- The user exercises for the amount of time remaining.
- The target environment is the amount of exercise completed.
- The Possible disturbances include all the things that get in the way of exercise; apathy, competing time requirements, location
Clip from class
Leave Me Alone Box
These are all just rip offs of this:
The Ultimate Machine
Claude Shannon and Marvin Minsky’s Ultimate Machine.
And remember kids, friends don’t let friends shoot video on their phones in portrait orientation. Shudder.
Three very quick sketches related to the idea that we don’t really understand what happens inside our bodies and that information we receive about our bodies should encourage dialogue.
Heart Rate Monitor/Zone Training System
This diagram describes a zone training system. The user’s goal is to maintain an average heart rate – corresponding with a level of intensity – during exercise. Their heart rate is sensed, compared to their maximum allowable heart rate and communicated to them through an LCD display. They can make adjustments to their pace or route to increase or decrease intensity, which affects their heart rate; completing the loop. External influences on the feedback loop could include terrain/incline during a run, weather conditions etc.
Camera Light/Exposure Meter
This diagram describes the working of a camera’s light meter. The light meter produces or allows a current to flow when light falls on it. This current is measured, and used along with other variables (ISO, shutter speed, aperture). The exposure is calculated against a reference standard. Feedback is given to the user through a dial/needle – allowing them to make adjustments to ISO, shutter speed, aperture (or lighting – by adjusting an artificial light source, or changing the composition of the shot) which changes the exposure of the photograph – completing the loop.
I am not going to lie to you.
I had less time to do this round of the experiment than I did the first time around. I used this round as a smaller experiment to get more specific about the target behaviour I was trying to encourage, my audience and the channel used to trigger the behaviour – but it’s a very modest experiment.
I narrowed the scope of my desired target behaviour from “Drink one more glass of water than you did yesterday” to “drink one glass of water”. I asked my wife to participate – she agreed to drink one glass of water when triggered by Twitter, then to respond. I sent her a tweet at a random time of the day while she was in work. She responded 10 minutes later saying she had drank a glass of water “My water has refreshed me ”. I responded immediately to thank her.
I am incredibly not interested in pursuing a system to get my wife to drink a glass of water when I text her – but I’ve learned a lot and I’ve identified a version of this experiment that I’d like to take forward.
Let death find us as we are building up our matchstick protests against its waves (Alain de Botton – The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work)
I chose Alain de Botton’s video because I enjoy his brand of accessible contrarianism. In his Sunday Sermon, and in his books, de Botton draws attention to the futility of existence and the absurdity of our day to day lives.
To me, his pessimism feels both human and invigorating – in that it is meant (I think) to pays tribute to the human spirit and to all that we’ve achieved in the face of probable tragedy and certain death – hopefully motivating us to focus on the things that matter. Even if you disagree with his perspective, it’s an interesting starting point for a discussion about the true value of life.
Some of the things de Botton talks about are directly applicable to the design of self-care systems. Obviously, his work reminds me that however well we design systems to help people maintain or improve their health we are simply forestalling certain death. Death is, I suppose, the ultimate design constraint. For me, this prompts me to think about designing systems we should do so with a sense of humility in the face of certain failure; aiming for small amounts of progress rather than complete mastery, lowering expectations – or at least keeping them in check, prioritizing relationships and leaving room for warmth and pleasure. It should be possible to design a system where the user can fail, but still prosper and learn.
Another really interesting theme in de Botton’s work is the influence of chance/fortune in our lives. We simply don’t think about our successes as being accidents, and we look upon those who have failed as – failures – rather than people who simply rolled a 1 instead of a 6. Now, when I think about designing a self-care system I think that being conscious of randomness, chance, serendipity and tragedy will be very useful. Instead of thinking “the user will do” I could instead thing “the user might do” and “the user probably won’t”.
De Botton’s perspective on life offers a very strange starting point for us – we start out on a design challenge knowing that success will have a lot to do with luck and that ultimately we’ll fail. I suppose the beauty of life, and the absurdity of life, is in the trying. So, let’s try.
Keep it Super Simple
I wanted to design a little system/experiment that would change one behaviour for a short span of time. Ideally, I wanted to change a behaviour that was already being done by the participants – rather than asking them to do something completely new, which would really involve two challenges; persuading them to do it, then them doing it.
Small Fixes is a series of articles about small actions leading to improvements in healthcare at scale.
I’ve only watched 30 seconds of this so far – but it seems relevant (so far).