Margaret Morris: Mobile Heart Health

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    Mobile Heart Health


Creation Year:



    Metaphorical representations of emotional and cardiovascular health states displayed on mobile phones.


Artist Statement:

    Mobile Heart Health, an exploratory research project, applies biosensing and mobile feedback to preventive cardiology. Cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of death in the U.S., demands innovative approaches to prevention. This project targets psychological risk factors such as stress and conflict with mobile feedback. Practices that facilitate self regulation – such as cognitive behavioral therapy, biofeedback, mindfulness, and yoga – are transferred from rarefied clinical and teaching settings into the flow of daily life. The mobile therapies appear when they are most needed, as determined by individuals’ physiological and subjective stress signals. A key design challenge was translating interpersonal healing practices, such as psychotherapy dialogues, into brief experiential interactions with a mobile device. Ethnography, participatory design, and secondary research inspired a visual language, framework, and portfolio of mobile therapies. Heating and cooling dynamics emerged as central visual metaphors for autonomic imbalance and the subjective experience of anger. A spectrum of fire stages, from an unlit match to forest-fire aftermath, represent the user’s immediate state and tailor the therapeutic intervention accordingly. The intent is to help people “catch the flicker before the flame” – that is, to recognize early signs of stress and modulate their emotional and physical reactions. The visual appeal of these elements may allow people to acknowledge their attraction to states and behaviors that are damaging over time. The fire-and-water-based imagery was also selected for its crosscultural resonance. This system integrates typically disparate healing practices: psychotherapeutic techniques, individualized coping strategies, and complementary approaches of mindfulness meditation, yoga, and Ayurvedic medicine. Mobile-therapy concepts range from animated breathing exercises and cognitive reappraisal tools to mood-determined music and imagery selections. Concept feedback has been gathered in the US and India. The full platform of monitoring and therapeutic feedback is in development for trials.

Technical Information:

    Mobile therapies respond to moment-to-moment variability in
    physiology, subjective self-assessment, and context. Physiological stress is indicated by a wireless cardiovascular sensor that detects deviations from an individual’s baseline ECG. Subjective assessment occurs through touch-screen adaptations of clinical scales such as the “mood map.” Contextual changes associated with stress are detected by location-sensing, calendaring applications, and experience-sampling methods. Variability in these triggers allows the system to determine the stage of stress and appropriate flow of mobile therapies. Flexible software permits highly configurable, personalized mobile-therapy protocols. The system is currently running on
    a smart phone.