Computer Science

Distinguished Lecturer: Dr. Steve Whittaker from UCSC

Campus Location: Kemper Hall

Room: 1003

Contact Email:

Presented by: the Department of Computer Science



Title: Taking Control of Our Personal Data: Design Principles for Quantified Self Systems to Improve Personal Health

Lecturer: Steve Whittaker, UC Santa Cruz

Host: Professor Michael Neff


All of us generate huge amounts of personal data as a side-effect of our everyday computing activities. These data are currently used by third parties such as corporations or employers but offer little benefit to end users themselves. However, there is growing interest in quantified self (QS) systems that allow users to track personal data to promote better personal health and productivity. For example, many apps allow users to track their exercise, sleep, weight or work habits in order to improve them. However the majority of QS tools are abandoned after short initial use. This talk will evaluate the QS approach, identifying 3 main challenges for system adoption. We present three empirically validated system designs that address these challenges in the domain of personal health.  These systems a) aid users’ data interpretation by providing concrete action recommendations, b) motivate users to change behaviors, and c) exploit context. In each case we will describe fielded system deployments and evaluations showing measurable improvements in health behaviors. We conclude by exploring future challenges for QS systems.


Steve Whittaker is Professor of Human Computer Interaction at UC Santa Cruz. He works at the intersection of Psychology and Computer Science, studying how technology affects fundamental aspects of our everyday lives. He employs insights from social science to design new digital tools to improve productivity, memory, and well-being. His research has been funded by the NSF, European Union, and UK Science Councils as well as by Google and Microsoft. In the past he worked in Industry at Hewlett Packard, IBM and AT&T Labs.  He is Editor of the journal Human Computer Interaction, and has numerous awards including ACM Fellow, Member of the ACM Computer Human Interaction Academy, and a Lifetime Research Award from ACM Society for Research on Computer Human Interaction. His new book, on personal information management, The Science of Managing Our Digital Stuff, with Ofer Bergman will be published by MIT Press in Oct. 2016.

1003 Kemper Hall

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