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Self-Tracking Technology Acceptance

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  • 1. the ascension of commercial self-tracking tools factors that influence and increase self-tracking technology acceptance by Rachelle DiGregorio a thesis presented to the SOJC and CHC of the University of OregonLet’s get started. Hi everyone, I’m here today to talk to you about the research I did for my undergraduate researchproject. The project is called: “The ascension of commercial self-tracking tools: Factors that influence and increaseself-tracking technology acceptance.”
  • 2. self-trackingSelf-tracking is an activity in which a person collects and reflects on their personal information, and the practice isincreasingly facilitated by digital tools in the commercial market. Self-tracking can be anything from counting thenumber of steps you take in a day to keeping track of the various locations you visit. Commercial self-trackingtools are usually simple, oriented around a goal, and easy enough for anyone to use. Think of a simple pedometeror the mobile application Foursquare.The collection of personal information is now a commonplace activity as a result of connected devices and theInternet. Tracking is integrated into so many digital services and devices; it is more or less unavoidable. Self-tracking allows people to take advantage of these new technological capabilities to learn more about themselvesand reach their goals.Interest in self-tracking has boomed in the last few years. The topic has been covered by prestigious news outletsincluding The New York Times, The Economist,The Guardian, and Forbes. Plus, big brands like Nike, Garmin, andNokia have all invested in self-tracking technology.So my big question is: If the activity of self-tracking is going to continue to grow, how will it happen? What leads tothe acceptance and use of self-tracking tools?Before I answer this, I’m going to walk you through how I got to self-tracking tools and why I’m interested in thesubject. Then I’ll explain how I went about answering my research question and what I ultimately found.
  • 3. self-tracking what leads to the acceptance of self-tracking tools?Self-tracking is an activity in which a person collects and reflects on their personal information, and the practice isincreasingly facilitated by digital tools in the commercial market. Self-tracking can be anything from counting thenumber of steps you take in a day to keeping track of the various locations you visit. Commercial self-trackingtools are usually simple, oriented around a goal, and easy enough for anyone to use. Think of a simple pedometeror the mobile application Foursquare.The collection of personal information is now a commonplace activity as a result of connected devices and theInternet. Tracking is integrated into so many digital services and devices; it is more or less unavoidable. Self-tracking allows people to take advantage of these new technological capabilities to learn more about themselvesand reach their goals.Interest in self-tracking has boomed in the last few years. The topic has been covered by prestigious news outletsincluding The New York Times, The Economist,The Guardian, and Forbes. Plus, big brands like Nike, Garmin, andNokia have all invested in self-tracking technology.So my big question is: If the activity of self-tracking is going to continue to grow, how will it happen? What leads tothe acceptance and use of self-tracking tools?Before I answer this, I’m going to walk you through how I got to self-tracking tools and why I’m interested in thesubject. Then I’ll explain how I went about answering my research question and what I ultimately found.
  • 4. advertising + math brand story telling + statistical analysisI started my thesis project by simply trying to connect my two seemingly un-related majors: Advertising and MathAdvertising (as we look at it in the J-school) is a tool for telling brand stories - creating connections that are visual,interactive and emotionalMath, specifically statistical analysis, is a method for finding the meaning in large complex sets of dataThese two areas come together in an interesting way with data visualization
  • 5. telling stories with numbersData visualization is, in essence, telling visual stories with numbers. One series of data visualization that reallycaught my interest is the Feltron Annual Reports. This is an example from the 2009 edition of the report.These pieces were created by graphic designer Nickolas Felton, who collects information on almost every aspect ofhis life, from relationships, to activities, to food, drink, mood and location and then visualizes it. What’s uniqueabout this work is that Felton is bringing understanding to himself as the complex data set. He is looking at hisidentity and life as a set of numbers to be explained.all about self-knowledge understandingstarted digging in self-tracking, found commercial self-tracking tools, more about action but under sameumbrellaFelton used a website/mobile app he developed, called Daytum, to collect all of this information. Daytum openedmy eyes to the extensive number of digital tools that have been specifically developed to facilitate self-tracking.
  • 6. commercial self-tracking toolsSo finally, I arrived at commercial self-tracking tools. These are the tools that are goal oriented and easy to use.They are fascinating to me because the are so simple, but the effect they can make on a person’s life is verypowerful.These examples show the variety of tools available for different types of self-tracking.First, we have the Nike+ Fuelband, which was just released in January. It’s a bracelet-like device that tracks steps,calories, and “NikeFuel” - a standardized metric that allows people of different body types and athletic abilities tocompare their daily activity. Then, Fitbit, which is very similar to the FuelBand, but tracks a few more things,including sleep patterns. Then, Foursquare, which allows users to keep track of the locations they visit and earnpoints and badges for their “check-ins.” And finally, we have Mint.com, which tracks, combines, and visualizesfinancial activity and goals. All of these tools have online and mobile components.Again, I wanted to find out the factors that influence people to accept these types of tools. Through my primaryresearch and the literature review that supports it, I found that a person’s perceived usefulness of a tool is themost influential element in the self-tracking technology acceptance process.So how did I get to this insight?
  • 7. commercial self-tracking tools acceptance of perceived usefulness self-tracking toolsSo finally, I arrived at commercial self-tracking tools. These are the tools that are goal oriented and easy to use.They are fascinating to me because the are so simple, but the effect they can make on a person’s life is verypowerful.These examples show the variety of tools available for different types of self-tracking.First, we have the Nike+ Fuelband, which was just released in January. It’s a bracelet-like device that tracks steps,calories, and “NikeFuel” - a standardized metric that allows people of different body types and athletic abilities tocompare their daily activity. Then, Fitbit, which is very similar to the FuelBand, but tracks a few more things,including sleep patterns. Then, Foursquare, which allows users to keep track of the locations they visit and earnpoints and badges for their “check-ins.” And finally, we have Mint.com, which tracks, combines, and visualizesfinancial activity and goals. All of these tools have online and mobile components.Again, I wanted to find out the factors that influence people to accept these types of tools. Through my primaryresearch and the literature review that supports it, I found that a person’s perceived usefulness of a tool is themost influential element in the self-tracking technology acceptance process.So how did I get to this insight?
  • 8. stage-based model of personal informatics collection reflection preparation integration actionI started with research in the computer-human interaction field, specifically the work done by Ian Li at CarnegieMellon University. His model, the stage-based model of personal informatics, maps out the stages of the self-tracking process.This model provided me with a strong understanding of how self-tracking works, specifically with the commercialtools we just discussed. All of those tools are oriented around a goal, so they focus on the action stage, looking forself-improvement and change.Based on this, I realized that I needed to research commercial self-tracking tools as their own unique category.This is because they are actually different from thorough self-tracking projects like the Feltron Reports, whichemphasize the reflection stage, and present information to improve understanding, not necessarily to take action.
  • 9. technology acceptance model perceived perceived expected usefulness ease of use enjoyment attitude towards use technology acceptanceSo I looked to the Technology Acceptance Model to understand what leads to the use of commercial self-trackingtools.This model, developed by Fred Davis in 1986, breaks down the factors that influence the acceptance of atechnology. This is a simplified version, but basically, the model says that a person’s perceived usefulness,perceived ease of use, and expected enjoyment of a technology influence their attitude towards using thattechnology, which then influences their actual use of the tool.This model is one of the most referenced theories in information technology acceptance and provided a goodbasis for my primary research, in which I conducted a survey to measure the perceptions and use of fitness self-tracking tools. I focused on fitness because it is the most widely used category of self-tracking tools.
  • 10. survey useful do fitness tracking tools seem easy to use ? enjoyable 1 5 no, not at all yes, very much soThe survey’s main question was “do fitness tracking tools seem useful/easy to use/enjoyable?”Participants selected their answer on a scale from 1 to 5,where 1 was no, fitness tracking tools don’t seem useful, easy to use, and enjoyable at all.and 5 is yes, fitness tracking tools seem completely useful, easy to use and enjoyable.I took all of the answers from those people who have used fitness tracking tools before (about half) to see howtheir perceptions led to their use of fitness tracking technology. This is what I found.The mean answers for perceived usefulness were very positive, with a strong yes at 4.The mean answers for perceived ease of use and expected enjoyment were considerably lower, edging close toneutral at 3.I found more insight into why people answered the way they did through open ended questions. From thatinformation, it seems that ease of use was more neutral because many people felt that fitness is a complicated setof information to quantify. Some people also expressed not wanting to bring technology or quantification intotheir fitness practices because it was their time to relax and get away from technology.Expected enjoyment could be more neutral due to people’s feelings about self-tracking in general. While manypeople think of it as a useful thing, they don’t necessarily think of it as fun. Some people even expressed that itwas a bit of a chore. My favorite quote from the survey was from participant 31, who said “it’s a tool, not an icecream bar.”I saw a similar pattern when I asked about self-tracking tools in general (before narrowing down to fitness).Perceptions of ease of use and enjoyment were much lower than usefulness. While the design of the surveyultimately makes it difficult to prove causation between people’s perceptions and their actual use, because of thisresearch’s roots in the Technology Acceptance Model, my findings provide decent evidence that a person’sperception of the usefulness of a tool is the most influential factor on self-tracking technology acceptance.
  • 11. survey useful do fitness tracking tools seem easy to use ? enjoyable 1 5 no, not at all yes, very much so 3 4 neutral yes 3.37 3.42 3.99The survey’s main question was “do fitness tracking tools seem useful/easy to use/enjoyable?”Participants selected their answer on a scale from 1 to 5,where 1 was no, fitness tracking tools don’t seem useful, easy to use, and enjoyable at all.and 5 is yes, fitness tracking tools seem completely useful, easy to use and enjoyable.I took all of the answers from those people who have used fitness tracking tools before (about half) to see howtheir perceptions led to their use of fitness tracking technology. This is what I found.The mean answers for perceived usefulness were very positive, with a strong yes at 4.The mean answers for perceived ease of use and expected enjoyment were considerably lower, edging close toneutral at 3.I found more insight into why people answered the way they did through open ended questions. From thatinformation, it seems that ease of use was more neutral because many people felt that fitness is a complicated setof information to quantify. Some people also expressed not wanting to bring technology or quantification intotheir fitness practices because it was their time to relax and get away from technology.Expected enjoyment could be more neutral due to people’s feelings about self-tracking in general. While manypeople think of it as a useful thing, they don’t necessarily think of it as fun. Some people even expressed that itwas a bit of a chore. My favorite quote from the survey was from participant 31, who said “it’s a tool, not an icecream bar.”I saw a similar pattern when I asked about self-tracking tools in general (before narrowing down to fitness).Perceptions of ease of use and enjoyment were much lower than usefulness. While the design of the surveyultimately makes it difficult to prove causation between people’s perceptions and their actual use, because of thisresearch’s roots in the Technology Acceptance Model, my findings provide decent evidence that a person’sperception of the usefulness of a tool is the most influential factor on self-tracking technology acceptance.
  • 12. implications emphasis on usefulness improve perceptions of ease of use and enjoyment healthcareSo what does this all mean? I found that perceived usefulness has a large influence on a person’s likelihood toaccept self-tracking tools. This insight has many implications, especially in the marketing of these products.First, it could mean that in order to increase the use of a certain self-tracking tool, the creators should market itsusefulness, and tell consumers about how it can improve their lives, because perceptions of usefulness directlylead to use. It could also mean that perceptions in the areas of ease of use and enjoyment can be improved.Marketers of self-tracking tools could focus on improving these perceptions in hopes that they could becomemore influential in the acceptance process.In the big scheme of things, self-tracking is a technology trend that is taking hold in the consumer market.Leaders of self-tracking innovation frame the practice as a new context for knowledge-making. It is morethan just a few peoples hobby, it is a lens through which we can see and create the world around us. Anunderstanding of self-tracking and the tools that facilitate it are vital to our assessment of societys digitalevolution.
  • 13. implications new context for knowledge-makingSo what does this all mean? I found that perceived usefulness has a large influence on a person’s likelihood toaccept self-tracking tools. This insight has many implications, especially in the marketing of these products.First, it could mean that in order to increase the use of a certain self-tracking tool, the creators should market itsusefulness, and tell consumers about how it can improve their lives, because perceptions of usefulness directlylead to use. It could also mean that perceptions in the areas of ease of use and enjoyment can be improved.Marketers of self-tracking tools could focus on improving these perceptions in hopes that they could becomemore influential in the acceptance process.In the big scheme of things, self-tracking is a technology trend that is taking hold in the consumer market.Leaders of self-tracking innovation frame the practice as a new context for knowledge-making. It is morethan just a few peoples hobby, it is a lens through which we can see and create the world around us. Anunderstanding of self-tracking and the tools that facilitate it are vital to our assessment of societys digitalevolution.
  • 14. thank you

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