Lately, self-tracking has been at the forefront of my mind. I just returned from the quantified self conference in Palo Alto and spent time conversing with/being inspired by this movement’s creative, supportive community; I’ve also been tracking my own food, weakness and gut symptoms, and other related things using Mymee.
I’ve been thinking about the mechanisms we use to track things like pain, tingling, and other bodily sensations. Right now we’re usually speaking in abstractions and using words and buttons to record how we feel and what’s happening to us. Instead, could we use a representation of our physical form as an input mechanism? You know, like ‘show me where it hurts.’
Recently I sketched out a representation of my symptoms on a body so that I could ‘show’ my doctor exactly what I was feeling. I used colors, words, and textures to illustrate and draw attention to the differences between my symptoms. Here’s a photo of my symptom bod:
You can see that I used blue to show my cold, tingly legs and I used deliberate, hard red strokes to show my burning fingers and toes. I drew a magenta cloud around my mouth to show my ‘sweet breath.’
During my visit, I brought both my health timeline and this drawing, and I referred to both of them as I walked her through my story. Clearly I have a lot of unexpected, diverse symptoms so while she was puzzling over them, she kept referring back to the body sketch. It became a visual aid to help her remember what I had said and try to link symptoms together.
I consider this “symptom body” experiment successful because it helped me walk my doctor through my own symptoms without leaving any of them out, and it also helped my doctor more fully comprehend my situation. I also found it to be a very intuitive way for me to show how I am feeling physically.Thus, I think there is an opportunity to bring the body into the quantified self movement – both as an input mechanism for physical symptoms (‘my pain is right…here’) and as a means of displaying them back to the user or healthcare professional.