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Visualizing Bipolar Disorder

Research team
Steve Voida, Assistant Professor, University of Colorado Boulder
Mark Matthews, Research Associate, Cornell University
Elizabeth Murnane, Postdoc, Cornell University
Beck Tench, PhD student, University of Washington

Our bodies are governed by rhythms. Within each of us is a circadian clock that helps us synchronize to the solar cycle; body temperature and sleep-wake cycles are driven by numerous biological processes. Biological rhythms are multiple and overlapping. They control the rise and fall of a range of physiological factors over the short, medium and long-term. Variations in these internal rhythms affect how we feel, think, and act, enabling our bodies to establish and maintain a physical sense of temporality.

This work focuses on the ways in which bipolar patients track, represent and interpret biological rhythms. We are examining the ways in which bio-sensing systems that measure micro fluctuations in our biological clocks have created opportunities to make these embodied experiences of temporality visible. Particular attention is given to the ways in which visual representations provided through these technologies inform perceptions of time, self and identity. We draw on Rose and Tolia-Kelly's discussions of visual materiality to explore the ways in which the process of visually representing internal and largely invisible biological rhythms influences the construction of personal systems of temporality.

This work is funded by the University of Washington's Royalty Research Fund (RRF).

Related publications

  • Matthews, M., Murnane, E., Snyder, J., Guha, S., Chang, P. F., Doherty, G., and Gay, G. (forthcoming). Double-Edged Sword: A Mixed Methods Study of the Interplay Between Bipolar Disorder and Technology Use. Computers and Human Behavior (CHB).
  • Matthews, M., Murnane, E., and Snyder, J. (2017). Quantifying the Changeable Self: The role of self-tracking in coming to terms with and managing bipolar disorder. Human Computer Interaction, special issue on "The examined life: Personal uses for personal data" ed. by Dan Cosley, Elizabeth Churchill, Jodi Forlizzi, and Sean Munson.
  • Matthews, M., Snyder, J., Reynolds, L., Chien, J., Shih, A, Lee, J., and Gay, G. (2015). MoodLight: Real-Time Representation Versus Response Elicitation in Biosensor Data. Note in Proc ACM SIGCHI, 605-608.
  • Snyder, J., Matthew, M., Chien, J., Chang, P.F., Abdullah, S., Sun, E. and Gay, G. (2015). MoodLight: Exploring Personal and Social Implications of Ambient Display of Biosensor Data. Proc ACM CSCW, 143-153.

Seeing Like a Scientist: Visualization Practices in Citizen Science

Citizen science has been recognized as both an innovative form of scientific inquiry and a vehicle for engaging a broader range of participants in informal STEM learning. Practices associated with learning to "see like a scientist" include: (1) recognizing meaningful differences within a sample or an ecological setting; (2) drawing attention to salient evidence; and (3) producing representations of data to communicate findings. For example, volunteers in a citizen science project might learn to recognize different species of birds in the wild; participate more deeply in a scientific community by drawing attention to sightings that are unusual or pertinent to a specific research question; and ultimately engage in collaborative research activities by generating and sharing data with the larger scientific community.

As citizen science participants learn to "see like a scientist" they become integrated into a community of practice and are able to participate in meaningful collaborations that can contribute to a new or more nuanced understanding of the issues and opportunities related to the doing of science. Many citizen science projects attempt to encourage the development of professional/scientific vision among diverse stakeholders by incorporating visual representations of project data, processes, or impacts into science activities, reflecting a practical understanding of two key aspects of working with images: (1) visualizations are an important part of authentic scientific work; and (2) visual forms of communication can encourage interactions across disparate audiences and broaden participation in collaborative activities.

This research project is focused on better understanding the role of visualization practices in citizen science and is exploring:

  • How do visualization activities cultivate professional vision and scientific ways of seeing the world among citizen science participants?
  • How can visualization activities play a greater role in developing communities of practice (including supporting recruitment and retention) in citizen science?
  • How can visually oriented activities and tools be designed to best support engagement in citizen science projects?

Related publication

  • Snyder, J. (2017). Vernacular Visualization Practices in a Citizen Science Project. Proc ACM CSCW.

Sociotechnical Dimensions of Technology Mediated Sight

Research team:
Annuska Zolyomi, PhD student, University of Washington

There are many historical and contemporary accounts of people regaining sight after prolonged blindness. Typically in these stories, sight is recovered through surgery (or by other mysterious circumstances) resulting in a permanent and seemingly instant ability to see. In contrast, assistive technologies that enable individuals with low vision to see empower users to experiment with non-permanent entry into the world of sight. The transition to sightedness unfolds over time, with users having the ability to consciously move between a more familiar experience of blindness and a world dominated by newly acquired sight. This presents a unique opportunity to learn about systems of visual representation from a new perspective.

Through this research we are better understanding both the opportunities and the challenges of staged transitions to sightedness, especially when compared to other experiences of sight regained through medical interventions.