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Ambiguity as a resource to inform proto-practices: The case of skin conductance

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Article number21
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>1/07/2019
<mark>Journal</mark>ACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction (TOCHI)
Issue number4
Volume26
Number of pages32
Publication statusPublished
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

Skin conductance is an interesting measure of arousal level, largely unfamiliar to most end-users. We designed a mobile application mirroring end-users’ skin conductance in evocative visualizations, purposefully made ambiguous to invite rich interpretations. Twenty-three participants used the system for a month. Through the lens of a practice-based analysis of weekly interviews and the logged data, several quite different—sometimes even mutually exclusive—interpretations or proto-practices arose: as stress management; sports performance; emotion tracking; general life logging; personality representation; or behavior change practices. This suggests the value of a purposefully open initial design to allow for the emergence of broader proto-practices to be followed by a second step of tailored design for each identified goal to facilitate the transition from proto-practice to practice. We contribute to the HCI discourse on ambiguity in design, arguing for balancing openness and ambiguity with scaffolding to better support the emergence of practices around biodata.