By Anind K. Dey, Carnegie Mellon University, Embedded Assessment Principal Investigator
Through our work in personal informatics we have learned lessons about the collection of information. Collection often means not only collecting information about the activity you care about, but also on other related contexts or activities, to help you make sense of the primary information. For example, seeing a log of how much you sleep would make more sense if it were overlaid with information about how much work you had to do or your travel schedule.We have found through an investigation of a series of tools to help promote physical activity, that there is a real trade off between the degree of automation in collection and the value of that collection. Too little automation can create a burden on the person collecting the information, however, too much automation can be harmful as well. Manual collection of information means the collector is focusing on the data (whenever collection occurs) and has the opportunity for short reflections, and can keep abreast of the data more easily. We have found that completely automating collection removes these opportunities and can actually hinder individuals in keeping track of and making sense of their data.