Guide Controls and Art: Inquiries at the Intersection of the Subjective and the Objective

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For some participants, the notifications and performance updates provided by the WATs caused them to make time for a walk during their lunch break, review current decisions on types and amounts of food intake, and systemize movement throughout the day by using alerts. Mary, for example, enabled her WAT to nudge her once an hour to get up and take steps.

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She felt too sedentary in her job and needed the WAT to remind her to be systematically active. Similarly, Jane had become more conscious of her activity levels after she started using the WAT. She used the WAT to gain a status report of her actively levels at lunch time and if the performance was low, she would make purposive efforts in the afternoon to walk and meet her step targets.

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The participants had acquired their WAT for different purposes. Some sought its support as encouragement to achieve a heightened level of exercise, some looked to the WAT to simply document an already active lifestyle and others wanted the WAT specifically to guide them toward a weight loss. Some wore it day and night to track many different activities, while others wore it mainly at the gym or when completing specific types of exercise e.

Therefore, some participants set their WAT to track and monitor many different kinds of activities, while others were more selective of when they wanted the WAT to monitor and track their performance. Despite the different reasons for having acquired the WAT, all participants looked to the WAT as an external source of certainty. I track sleep because then I can justify why I am tired. It is more of a side benefit. But I do like to track sleep to feel justified why I am tired. That annoys me!

And I believe it. I trust it. So, I have no excuse to feel tired. I just have to get on with it. They acknowledged that these assessments were often inaccurate, faulty, or simply not possible to undertake and keep track of. This expertise was instead expected of the WATs. For some participants, the WATs helped them to establish new activity routines and give greater insight into calorie consumption, step counts of certain routes and how to achieve better sleep pattern results.

Participants expressed how the data and visualizations generated by the WATs made them feel empowered. It was seen as a source of simplification of choices and decisions due to the transparency of performance and progress the WATs provided as and when requested by the participants. The WATs and the related mobile phone application kept participants updated on progress throughout the day and this was experienced to increase their confidence in decision-making.

For Sofia, who already had an active lifestyle before she started using the WAT, the role of the WAT was not to encourage her to be more active; rather the opposite.

The role of the WAT was to help her manage her need to live up to societal expectations of how much one ought to weigh, exercise, eat, and so on. Do I go to the gym? This example demonstrates how the WATs can reduce pressure and stress that participants put on themselves to be active. In fact, it can help participants to make decisions not to exercise by confirming that their level of activity is already high and they are meeting the set goals.

Participants tended to either become more reliant on the WAT in order to make health, fitness, and food related decisions, or grow in confidence to make their own decisions with little input or guidance from the WAT. The more dependent participants needed the data to ascertain their own performance and used it as encouragement to continue. Other participants reported seeing their confidence grow as a result of learning from the tracker and acquiring their own, internalized capacity to manage their health and well-being.

Participants had gained new knowledge of the length of a particular walking route, the speed at which they walked a mile, the calorie amounts of different foods, and the calories burnt from different types of exercise. This learnt knowledge had built confidence in them to make more independent decisions related to measuring, monitoring, and evaluating their activity levels, eating habits, and sleep.

These were abilities that previously were possessed mainly by the WATs. Joanna explained how she is no longer using her WAT, but that it has helped her to establish an active routine, which she has been able to continue with despite not using the WAT. This provided a tactile interaction between the WATs and the participants that was effective in eliciting a positive emotion in participants, who felt proud and happy to have reached their goals. These vibrations created a physical connection between the WATs and the participants who were able to feel the WATs and were alerted to their communication.

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They, however, remained accessible to give updates on performance. The buzzing vibrations and other indicators of reached goals e. Participants anticipated these interactions with the WATs and were open to be influenced; whether that was to be reassured e. They trusted the guidance provided by the WATs and used it in real-time to make decisions. Some participants even wanted the WAT to take on a more proactive and influential role. Paula explained:. I probably want my tracker to be a scary, sort of, army person.

Participants explained how seeing this color, and knowing this was a sign of success, prompted them to feel happy, self-fulfilled, and positive. The green color signaled goal completion and became synonymous with accomplishment and encouragement.

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It is a very clever dashboard in the sense that if you have achieved your goals it is in green. So, it is like a traffic system almost Paula. The WATs also used other ways to communicate with and affect participants such as smileys, badges, and trophies, which they received from completing their goals and taking part in competitions. The WATs also contributed with more socially enabled capacities to encourage participants to be active. Such capacities included step competitions, which allowed participants to compete against other WAT users.

The competitions were mainly daily and weekly step challenges and were effective, for some, in increasing activity levels. However, not everyone was interested in participating in these challenges. For Joanna and Christine, the competitions had initially provided much fun and excitement, but turned out to be a short-term fad, which did not sustain their interest. Some WATs were perceived as friendly supporters that mainly offered encouragement, advice, guidance, and data-driven insight.

However, for Mary, this was her second WAT. The interactions with her first WAT had been strained, not because there was anything technically wrong with the WAT; it did what it was supposed to do, however, that was exactly the problem. Consequently, she became less obsessed with knowing her weight and less critical of her physical appearance. She started to appreciate her interactions with the WAT and found it helpful when it vibrated and nudged her to be active because she experienced a greater extent of control.

This illuminates that within the human-WAT cognitive system, there is an on-going negotiation over influence, which affects decision-making, control, and competencies. In this theme, it has been evidenced how participants used the WATs and performance data to gain insight, which, for many, was experienced as a form of self-empowerment and extended ability to make better health-related decisions.

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However, there are also darker sides of relying on WATs and their resources. In the following section, we present further evidence of the complexities of these dynamic human-tech interactions. We observed that the hybridity with the on-body, always-accessible WAT also led to some negative experiences for the participants.

The cognitive abilities that the WATs contributed with e. Hence, what had started as an exciting experience, turned, for some, into a source of self-loathing and disappointment. Mary explained how she had taken a break from her first WAT because it was constantly reminding her of how she was not meeting her targets, which made her feel guilty about her inability to change her behaviors:.

I think it just kept telling me that I was gaining weight and I got angry and I stopped using it. I think it was the realization of having all that data, it was actually making me realize how unhealthy I was at the time Mary. Some participants reported feeling exposed and confronted with what they perceived to be bad habits e. This led to some emotional distress.


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The WATs provided quantifiable data, which previously had been ignored, suppressed or simply unknown to the participants. As the participants expressed a high level of trust in the biometric data, it led to a sense of bodily disconnect for some. This disconnect was expressed as a form of alienation between the participant and her own body, fueled by an increased uncertainty about how to best manage and build a strong and healthy body. One participant explained this by saying that she had stopped listening to her internal body and had become reliant on what the WAT told her.

Some participants were reliant on the data to confirm that they had indeed completed the particular activity. Hence, when the WAT was physically absent, which also led to an absence of the data, they experienced a reduction in the ability to monitor, measure, and assess their activity levels. In this way, participants did not feel capable of completing the tasks that the WATs could undertake. If I forget to charge it or forget to put it on then I get very annoyed. Because then I have done steps but there is no data to prove that. It is a very bad habit.

One day I did a lot of activities and I had forgotten to put it on and I felt very disappointed, even though it is just me who looks at the data. I want to have the data. Some participants had developed an intensive dependency relationship with the data, feeling obsessed with checking it.

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This included tracking progress, analyzing performance, and responding to the data. It offered the capability not only to track performance in real-time, but also to store this data for later comparisons, evaluation, and analysis. Joanna reflected on how the cognitive capabilities provided by the WAT had led to a sense of obsession:. It was obsessive.

It would be all you thought about. You would be constantly checking your steps.