Preventing and reducing rates of overweight and obese adolescents has become a key challenge in 21st century America, and social media technologies may be able to play a role in promoting sustained health behavior change in adolescents. To study these issues, we designed StepStream, a social network site for middle school students to share and encourage everyday lifestyle activity.
A social system for everyday adolescent fitness
StepStream is the result of research focused on the social implications of pervasive health technologies. This instantiation studied a pervasive social system that focused on encouraging middle school students to get more physical activity throughout a given day. The system allowed the students to share and encourage everyday lifestyle activity.
Research in the wild
StepStream is a multi-week pervasive health deployment consisting of an after school program, wireless pedometers and a social network site. The system allows participating students to track their steps using wireless pedometers. On the website, students can privately view their progress, and socially give each other tips on how to get more activity, share thoughts, and interact with each other by commenting and "liking" each others’ posts.
Research through design
Over a 3 year period, 130+ students took part in a series of participatory design exercises as they created concepts for health games that they would like to play. Based on these workshops, and with interim feedback from students, I designed and deployed StepStream.
Theory in action
StepStream allowed me the team to test mechanisms and constructs from behavioral theories in a social and pervasive computing context. StepStream encourages peer social support (an important element of behavior change from Social Support Theory) by providing ways for users to become aware of each others' progress and design elements that encourage them to encourage each other. StepStream also takes advantage of self and collective efficacy (from Social Cognitive Theory) by giving users personalized and group goals for everyday physical activity.
This work was funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation.
Miller, A.D., Mynatt, E.D. StepStream: A School-based Pervasive Social Fitness System for Everyday Adolescent Health. Proceedings of the ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI '14). April 26-May 1, 2014. Toronto, Canada. [pdf]
Miller, A. D. Pater, J. Mynatt, E. D. Design Strategies for Youth-Focused Pervasive Social Health Games. Proceedings of the 7th International Conference on Pervasive Computing Technologies for Healthcare (Pervasive Health 2013). Venice, Italy. [pdf]