My research contributes to the fields of Human Computer Interaction (HCI), Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW) and Health Informatics. My work is further informed by methods, theory and empirical findings from the fields of public health, sociology, and health communication. The main focus of my research is designing and evaluating the impact of software tools that help people move towards improved health and wellness.

I am passionate about studying how technology can help reduce racial, ethnic, and economic health disparities. For example, I have studied how culture and environment affect health behaviors and attitudes, and how health technologies can account for this relationship. In this work I have addressed diet-related health challenges in low-income, predominantly African American communities. I have also studied other aspects of health, such as health monitoring and reflection for individuals and families.

My other research has examined the role of technology in human-food interaction and the digital calendaring needs of working parents.

Current Work

For a list of my current projects, visit the Wellness Technology Lab research projects page.

Previous Work

Pediatric Health Promotion

Supporting health literacy in an engaging way

with Dr. Elizabeth Mynatt, Dr. Veda Johnson, Ian McClendon, Catherine Grevet, Victoria Ayo, and Wontaek Chung

In this work I explored how technology can support health promotion in children and adolescents, by making learning about healthy living (e.g., nutrition, physical activity) an enjoyable and engaging experience. For example, I am interested in how ICTs can help kids develop healthier food preferences and nutritional literacy. To start, we developed TalkBack, an online forum that encourages kids to collaboratively "talk back" to food advertisers by critically deconstructing food advertisement messaging and reflecting upon their own food preferences. In a pilot study, we examined participants' use of TalkBack and identified barriers to critical thinking. Our findings also suggest the importance of understanding the identity work that adolescents engage in when using a tool such as TalkBack. Finally, through subsequent participatory design workshops, our participants developed new ideas for social online environments that promote healthy eating.

CHI'13 paper on this research to appear.

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Community Mosaic

Collaborative system for visually documenting and sharing healthy eating ideas

with Dr. Beki Grinter, Vasudhara Kantroo, Heerin Lee, Miguel Osornio and Mansi Sharma

We designed and implemented Community Mosaic, an application that allows members of local communities to share MMS and SMS messages documenting how they are successfully eating well in their local neighborhoods. Once these messages are sent to our system, they are visualized on a large touchscreen display application that we installed in a local YMCA branch.

In this visualization, anyone going into the YMCA can see photos and text describing practical, locally-relevant ideas for healthy eating, including recipes, meals at local eateries and products sold at local supermarkets. Viewers can also share their reactions to the content in the system, for example by pressing a button to indicate they were inspired to try the idea being shared.

We conducted a three month field study to examine what made shared content engaging and the impact of sharing and viewing messages on individuals' knowledge about healthy eating. We also examined how using Community Mosaic impacted users' confidence in their ability to encourage others in the community to eat well and their attitudes regarding the importance of engaging in such health promotion.

CHI'12 paper on this research: [PDF].

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Collaborative system for sharing spoken reflections on nutrition in a local community

with Martin Bednar, Dr. Jay Bolter, Dr. Beki Grinter

I designed and implemented an application called EatWell that allows people to use their cell phones to create and share short audio memories describing how they have tried to eat healthfully in their neighborhood (e.g. at fast food restaurants or when cooking at home). They can also listen to the memories that others in their local community have created. The system design thus leverages the existing and culturally-situated knowledge of the community, and as such helps individuals to learn new culturally-grounded strategies for healthy eating. I studied the appropriation of EatWell in an urban neighborhood in Atlanta, GA over the course of 4 weeks. I used interviews, surveys, and system log data to analyze how and why people used the application. One of the key findings in this study was the way in which using EatWell facilitated a sense of community empowerment amongst users.

CSCW'08 paper: [PDF]
CSCW'10 paper: [PDF]
Journal of Diabetes Science & Technology (2011) paper: [PDF].

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Mobile phone game about nutrition

with Vasudhara Kantroo, Dr. Beki Grinter

We designed and implemented a mobile phone game called OrderUP! in which the goal is to help players learn strategies for healthy eating in a fun and lightweight way. Our goal with this game was to address the nutrition-related health disparities in low-income African American communities. In OrderUP!, users play the role of a server in a neighborhood restaurant. Their patrons are members of the local community and their goal is to serve their customers as quickly and healthfully as possible. In particular, players must choose the healthiest options from amongst dishes common at fast food restaurants and "soul food" establishments. Thus, the player must select from items that would realistically be available in the neighborhoods that we are focusing upon. Players gain points by serving customers quickly and by recommending the healthiest food options to players.

We conducted a field study of this game to examine participants' reactions to the game, the affects of the game on their health-related attitudes and behaviors, and how the game affects nutrition-related dialogue with individuals in the players' social network.

UBICOMP'10 paper on this research: [PDF].

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Examining the Culture of Nutrition

Deriving design implications for culturally-focused health technology

with Sheena Lewis, Sarah Williams, Dr. Beki Grinter

We worked with REACH for Wellness, to recruit participants for a study to better understand the health attitudes and beliefs of individuals from underpriveledged communities in the Atlanta area. This understanding helped us understand which aspects of health behavior future technologies should target. In this study, we used focus groups to examine questions such as "What does it mean to be healthy?" In addition, we used participatory design sessions to help participants convey to us what types of health-promoting technology they would like to use.

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Designing Persuasion

Design-focused analysis of previous health-related research

with Dr. Beki Grinter

We studied how health behavior, persuasion theory, and studies of culture & nutrition can be used to provide a foundation for HCI research on health. For example, the public health community has overwhelmingly advocated that interventions need to take into account for the cultural affects on health practices. By looking at previous work within the public health and nutrition domains, we derived three aspects of this research that are important for technology designers to take into account.

Persuasive'07 paper on this research: [PDF].

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Family Health

Formative qualitative fieldwork to dentify design implications

with Dr. Desney Tan, Dr. Dan Morris

While medical research has shown how the family unit affects individual health behaviors, little work has been devoted to examining the role of the family in HCI health research. We addressed this gap in research, looking particularly at parent-children relationships and supporting health discussions within the family. To explore this domain, we conducted a study comprising a week-long journaling activity followed by semi-structured interviews and formative design activities with 66 people in 15 families. We examined the implications of collecting, sharing, and viewing health information in the family context.

GROUP'09 paper on this research: [PDF].

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Design concept for a diet and exercise reflection tool

with Brandon Brown, Marshini Chetty, Ellie Harmon

We designed FotoFit, a low-fidelity prototype for monitoring diet and exercise habits. Fotofit allows users to record their diet and exercise habits by taking quick snapshots (using their camera phone) of the foods they eat and the physical activity that they engage in throughout their day. Users can then get a rich overview of their diet and exercise habits through a PC visualization application.

We won 2nd place in the CHI 2006 Student Design Competition for this work. Here is our submission: [PDF].

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Celebratory Technology

Critical analysis of previous (and the potential for future) food-related work in HCI

with Dr. Richard Harper

Food is a central part of our lives. Fundamentally, we need food to survive. Socially, food is something that brings people together-individuals interact through and around it. Culturally, food practices reflect our ethnicities and nationalities. Given the importance of food in our daily lives, it is important to understand what role technology currently plays and the roles it can be imagined to play in the future.

While an intern at Microsoft Research Cambridge, we examined the previous social science and HCI research on food to characterize the existing and potential design space for HCI in the area of human-food interaction. We also derived ideas for future work on designing technologies in the area of human-food interaction that celebrate the positive interactions that people have with food as they eat and prepare foods in their everyday lives.

CHI'08 paper: [PDF]
Journal of Diabetes Science & Technology (2011) paper: [PDF]

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Life Scheduling in Calendaring Tools

Examining the calendaring practices of working parents

with Dr. A.J. Brush

Working parents typically have the task of balancing their work and personal schedules. For example, parents may need to negotiate their child's sports schedules, music lessons, or day care scheudle with events that are scheduled at work (e.g. meetings and out-of-town travel). In this project, we examined how working parents' personal and work lives overlap and how that affects the way they schedule their time and subsequently use calendaring tools (e.g. paper and electronic calendars, sticky notes, etc.) In particular, we conducted a qualitative study in which we interviewed 15 working parents (both male and female) about how they schedule their time. In addition, we analyzed the calendaring tools of each participant.

CHI'08 paper on this research: [PDF].

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