Welcome to the Spring 2018 web page for CS565: Personal Technology, the Quantified Self, and Quality of Life

Instructor : Alex Kirlik.

TA : Sneha Krishna Kumaran (srkrish2@illinois.edu). Office Siebel 4103. Office Hours: Mondays & Wednesdays, 3-4pm. Meeting location subject to change.

Course Description : CS 565 is a graduate level, research-oriented course that complements our CS 465 User Interface Design course which focuses on providing students with well established knowledge and best practices for HCI design. As such, the contents of 565 shift to keep pace with emerging trends and developments in the HCI research landscape. The focus of the current course, as indicated above, is “Personal Technology, the Quantified Self, and Quality of Life.” This focus was in part motivated by a recent special issue of the journal Human-Computer Interaction (Volume 32, 2017) with the title “The Lived Experience of Personal Informatics,” edited by D. Cosley et al.

An excerpt from the introductory article in the issue highlights the general issues:


"Over the last decade, the idea of a “quantified self” has become increasingly well known. The main premise is to collect and reflect on data about oneself in order to gain new insights or meet other goals. Quantified self activities usually involve active and passive data collection combined with using tools for automated and/or user driven data curation. Much of the research conversation around the quantified self, as well as related concepts such as personal informatics systems and persuasive technologies, focuses on technological innovation, rational decision making, and self-improvement outcomes. Often lost in this framing of rational self improvement through technology is the actual practice and experience of the self being quantified as people engage with their data and the systems they use to track and reflect on that data. Thus, these articles engage with the idea of the lived experience of a quantified life."

Course time and location: Tuesdays and Thursdays, 12:30pm - 1:45pm, 1109 Siebel Center for Computer Science.

Course Format :

The first week of the class (the first 2 class meetings) will involve the instructor providing an introduction to the course material.

Readings, Weekly Homework, and Class Discussions: After the first week led by the instructor, each Tuesday’s class will typically consist of a discussion of a "target" article to be read prior to each Tuesday’s class led by the instructor. Each Thursday’s class will be devoted to more in-depth or expansive discussion of the material in the target article led by students discussing their weekly homework assignments from their seats. Broad class participation, Q&A, etc. is expected in these discussions.. Students who actively volunteer (as opposed to being called upon) to present their homework or play a particularly active role in commentary and Q&A on other students' presentations will be eligible for extra credit on their homework for that week

Homework Details: Each student is expected to identify an additional reading related to the general topic of each week’s target article to form the basis of a weekly written homework assignment (a short report of 1-2 pages max, 1-inch margins, 12pt font, double-spaced and including reference(s) and figures (if necessary) to be submitted via Compass in pdf format no later than the beginning of the relevant, Thursday) class meeting. The additional reading can be drawn from either popular culture writing or the research literature.

The purpose of having students identify an additional reading on their own that is in some way related to each target handbook reading, as a basis for their written homework assignments and brief classroom discussions, is to provide additional breadth, variety, depth, or appreciation of a target chapter's relevance to the course material. This flexibility also allows students to explore areas or topics they find to be particularly interesting in somewhat more detail or in greater depth.

Group Design Project : In addition to the 9 required homework assignments, students will work in groups of 2 or 3 (not 4 or more) to conceptualize and build a running prototype of some kind of interactive app for some personal technology of their choice (smartphone, wearable, tablet, laptop, etc.). We will have much more to say on the nature of the design project as time goes by, but at this point suffice it to say that the main constraint is that its design must be related in some clear way to the overall theme of the course. Projects will be briefly presented to the class at the end of the term using no more than 5 presentation slides and a demonstration of the running prototype. These slides, a short final project report, and code will be submitted with details to be provided later.

Student Assessment : Homework, as illustrated by the written assignments submitted weekly, their brief class presentations, and active participations in classroom discussions will constitute 60% of the course grade. Each homework will be assigned either a grade of 0 (not submitted on time); 1 (satisfactory); 2 (good or better), or, when extra credit is warranted due to a high degree and quality of participation in the associated class discussion,, a grade of 3. The other 40% of the course grade will be based on the group design project. These will be judged for creativity, utility. technical implementation, and quality of presentation and reporting. Other than in exceptional cases, all students working within each design group will receive the same project grade.

Detailed Topics (target paper titles)::

1. "Links between depression and new media screen time.”

2. "Actionable analytics and targeted reflection for emotional well being."

3. “Personal informatics, self-insight, and behavior change.”

4. "Personal tracking devices and pervasive anxiety."

5. “Know thyself: A theory of the self for personal informatics.”

6. “The role of reflection and insight in persuasive system design.”

7. “Evolving the ecosystem of personal behavioral data.”

8. “Using visual histories to reconstruct the mental context of suspended activities.”

9. "Privacy implications of automated GPS tracking and profiling.”

Class Schedule:

Week 1 (1/16 & 1/18) Course introduction (Instructor). No readings assigned.


Week 2 (1/23 & 1/25) Tuesday: READING: "Links between depression and new media screen time.” Thursday: Homework 1 Due (Compass) – Class discussion based on student homework.


Week 3 (1/30 & 2/1) Tuesday: READING: "Actionable analytics and targeted reflection for emotional well being." Thursday: Homework 2 Due (Compass) – Class discussion based on student homework.


Week 4 (2/6 & 2/8) Tuesday: READING: “Personal informatics, self-insight, and behavior change.” Thursday: Homework 3 Due (Compass) – Class discussion based on student homework.


Week 5 (2/20 & 2/22) Tuesday: READING: "Personal tracking & anxiety" Thursday: Homework 4 Due (Compass) – Class discussion based on student homework.


Week 6 (2/27 & 3/1) Tuesday: READING: “Know thyself: A theory of the self for personal informatics.” Thursday: Homework 5 Due (Compass) – Class discussion based on student homework.


Week 7 (3/6 & 3/8) Tuesday & Thursday: Brief Group Project Proposal Presentations & Feedback


Week 8 (3/13 & 3/15) Tuesday: READING: “The role of reflection and insight in persuasive system design.” Thursday: Homework 6 Due (Compass) – Class discussion based on student homework.


Week 9 (3/20 & 3/22) No Class: Spring Break.


Week 10 (3/27 & 3/29) Tuesday: READING: “Evolving the ecosystem of personal behavioral data.” Thursday: Homework 7 Due (Compass) – Class discussion based on student homework.


Week 11 (4/3 & 4/5) Tuesday: READING: “Using visual histories to reconstruct the mental context of suspended activities.” Thursday: Homework 8 Due (Compass) – Class discussion based on student homework.


Week 12 (4/10 & 4/12) No Class: Instructor on Conference Travel – Group project work on your own.


Week 13 (4/17 & 4/19) Tuesday: READING: "Privacy implications of automated GPS tracking and profiling.” Thursday: Homework 9 Due (Compass) – Class discussion based on student homework.


Week 14 (4/24 & 4/26) Group Project Presentations Parts 1 & 2.


Week 15 (5/1) Group Project Presentations Part 3, Course and instructor evaluation.

Additional Course Readings :


"Introduction to the Quantified Self"


"Introduction to the HCI Special Issue-Lived Experience of Personal Informatics.pdf"

End