When things break, when one aspect of our health is stressed, the other aspects of our health (physical, emotional, nervous system, mental, social) can help us to heal, restore resiliency, and regain strength. With most current health-tracking wearable and personal technologies, when a person feels ill, the technology feels punitive.
In fact, when people use tech as a self-mirror, to see their health indicators drop to null when feeling ill is destructively de-motivational and distressing – beyond having no tech mirror at all. What if, instead, the technology was soothing and supportive and contributed to a sense of autonomic resilience?
These examples offer the foundation for a design field separate from most current medical-device design and wearable technologies for health. Most current technologies for health interface with the logical functioning of a person – data is gathered and represented back to people via descriptive displays and outputs.
Essential self technologies are, in contrast, collaborative with the wearer and facilitate working empathically with one’s self and with others in one’s care, via a fuller and embodied access to healing. This is a call to action to evolve our approach to technologies for health.
Linda Stone served in senior executive roles at Apple and Microsoft, did pioneering work in multimedia technology and applications in the 1980s and early ‘90s, and in social computing technologies in the ‘90s. For the last decade she has studied, written, and spoken about trends, attention, and the psychophysiology of our relationship with technology. She coined the phrases continuous partial attention, email apnea, screen apnea, conscious computing, and essential self technologies. She believes that essential self technologies, technologies that support autonomic resilience, embodiment, and emotional self-regulation, offer the most effective approach to health.
Kelly Dobson designed and built the machines that contributed to inspiring essential self technologies. Dr. Dobson’s highly interdisciplinary background spans medicine, art, technology, and culture. She earned three advanced degrees from MIT where she trained in art, media arts and sciences, engineering, and anthropology. She has served as department head of Digital + Media for four years at RISD, where she is currently associate professor and founder/director of the Data Visceralization Research Group. Dobson pays deep and careful attention to the ways that we, and the things we make, help us care for one another, and is profoundly driving medical and wellness transformations in the fields of medical device design, critical care medicine, and mindfulness.
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