Grad students place second at ACM SIGCHI Conference

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Masters students Filip Krynicki, William Saunders, and Valerie Sugarman from the Human-Computer Interaction Lab in the Cheriton School of Computer Science placed second at the International Student Design Competition held at the ACM SIGCHI Conference for Human Factors in Computing in Toronto. The theme of this year's design competition was "Designing for the Qualities of the Quantified Self", and was posed as the following challenge:

The growing design domain of the Quantified Self has been made possible through the integration of low-cost sensing technologies with proliferating applications available through mobile and internet technologies. There is a context of sensory-rich data from biometric, health, neo-analog, DIY culture and geophysical sensing that expands our ability to augment or shift our perspectives and our knowledge. Self-tracking, self-management and self-awareness are activities that promote agency and transformation of our own growing accumulation of 'bodydata'. How can we transform this overwhelming incoming bodydata into self-knowledge?

The Waterloo design examined long-term behavior tracking for participants seeking to make a significant life-style change, such as overcoming addiction. The design was grounded in Transtheoretical Model of Behavior Change, a six-stage model of behavior change. The model culminates with the Maintenance stage, where people who have successfully changed their behavior (overcome an addiction, lost significant weight, adopted a more sustainable lifestyle) seek to preserve the new behavior patterns they have established. The Waterloo students' design focused specifically on the maintenance stage, and on techniques that helped people stay motivated once the initial challenge was overcome.

The design leveraged work in visualizations that tracked long-term fitness goals, and explored whether similar visualizations might help people track other, more serious long-term behavior change goals. Their final design prototype, Sisyphorest, incorporated many of the aspects important for success in life-style change maintenance, including: intrinsic motivation and self-reflection; failure identification and forgiveness; and the highlighting of past cumulative successes. For people recovering from addictions, managing diabetes, or maintaining other long-term, life-style changing behaviors, these aspects of fostering internal motivation, overcoming short-term failures, and seeing long-term success can be particularly important. More details of their design are available in the ACM digital library publication.

The International Student Design Competition is an annual competition held in conjunction with the ACM SIGCHI flagship conference on Human-Factors in Computing Systems. This annual event is one of the largest ACM academic conferences, attracting between 2000 and 3000 attendees examining aspects of user interaction and system design.  The student design competition is a multi-stage competition, where initial submissions are reviewed by a panel of over 100 external reviewers. From this initial round this year, twelve submissions were chosen for inclusion in the conference and proceedings and for presentation at the conference. Once at the conference, a further round of competition selects four finalists who give a presentation on their work and are examined by a judging panel in a public session. This year's winning team, a five-person graduate student team from the University of Michigan, designed an application to promote mental health.

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