Identity, like most things, is not monolithic.
It’s rich, varied and textured. And our online modes of expression should allow for that texture, particularly in what we name ourselves while expressing.”
This statement will probably get me in trouble: Health apps that do not allow for multifaceted, evolving identity creation (and recreation) will fail.
Consumers evolve. *We evolve.
The things we name ourselves, the way we construct our health narratives - these change not condition by condition, but rather day by day.
In the study of inheritance, there is a subspecialty called epigenetics.
In newer literature, it’s often examined by studying genomic adaptations as responses to toxins, stress, and even behaviors (!).
Epigenetics intimates that our genetic code is altered by response to environmental stimuli…as is our health.
But where is the equivalent of epigenetic study in health and wellness?
We should be talking about epihealth -the way in which our attitudes about health, and our resultant actions, our reactions to perceptions of our environment (related to feeling healthy or unhealthy) - influence our decision-making, and thus the recoding of our personal habit map.
And we should study epihealth with far more quantitative rigor.
If we look deeper at creating epihealth as a field of study that informs social health design, we might begin to explore an individual user (and her data) as a complex being, composed of 3 parts:
1. Genome (genetic code)
2. “Meome” (our personal genome), which reacts + adapts to environmental factors over time. Ie my genome is different than your genome, thus we each have individually relevant “meomes.”
3. “Selfome:” Our meome + additional factors, both medical and social. The selfome is composed of personal biological or biometric factors of note, including blood pressure etc, (aka “me-trics”). However, another portion of the selfome includes social DNA, ie the identities we construct, share, and reconstruct as part of our social personae, online and offline.
In mobile and social health tech, we fail completely to capture the promise of analyzing genetic change, but to be fair, that’s not entirely our fault - the science of looking at active genetic change is far too early (although with Halcyon’s work I hope to have the ability to view RNA in real time).
We also fail to capture an accurate snapshot of a user’s ‘meome,’ or a person’s individual genome. However, 23andMe is doing excellent pioneering work in the area of meome recording, analysis, and social/population comparison, at least as far as a SNIP based analysis will allow.
But there is one epihealth data set currently available to us - and only a very foolish team would overlook the ability - RIGHT NOW - to harness an individual’s sharing of the selfome, on social networks in particular.
Analysis of the selfome should inform our design of complex contextual computing systems that 1.) support individual self-awareness by illuminating me-trics of note and 2.) motivate individual behavior change.
With both getupandmove and Health Month, we’ve found people are often happy to talk about what specific set of complex me-trics can be best measured for tracking + managing the health of that individual.
BUT it’s not that simple.
We also see users:
1.) Underestimating current behaviors and
2.) Overestimating their ability to change behavior, even within a constrained environment with a time/duration limit.
So self-reporting is a complex problem. Integrating passive data collection and aggregation via devices doesn’t solve the issue, but that’s a post for another time…
Bottom line: Building for flexibility and an ability to calibrate to changing user identities, or selfome evolution - with a focus on health + personal environmental data - is not a luxury feature; it is a necessity.
At Habit Labs, I’m amazingly proud of both the theoretical work we’re doing to map users’ habits and the product development we’re using to create “habit AI.”
Our approach is rich, varied, and textured. As is your approach to health and wellbeing. We look forward to helping you build a healthier identity.
Note: Meome and selfome are made-up words. I’ve got a bad habit of doing that when I can’t find a term to suit my purposes.