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Distinguished Lecture: Elizabeth Mynatt Looks At Ubiquitous Computing's Power To Transform Healthcare

Click the link that follows for more Brown CS content about our Distinguished Lecture Series.

Professor Elizabeth Mynatt of Georgia Institute of Technology visited the CIT last week to address Brown University's Department of Computer Science (Brown CS) and deliver the thirty-fifth lecture in the Distinguished Lecture Series. Using a retrospective of her research projects as a foundation, the talk ("Rethinking Ubiquitous Computing to Transform Healthcare") demonstrated how an integration of computing research, human-centered design, and health management theory can create promising approaches for promoting wellness, supporting behavior change, and delivering improved health outcomes.

"The unique capabilities of pervasive computing technologies have the potential to transform healthcare," she explained, "by shifting care from institutional to home settings, by helping individuals engage in their own care, by facilitating problem solving and decision making, and by creating a network of communication and collaboration channels that extends healthcare delivery to everyday settings."

From the first research project Mynatt mentioned (the Digital Family Portrait, which she cited as an example of the difficulty of visually conveying how a person is doing), questions were frequent and enthusiastic. When she spoke of her work inadvertently predicting the attention economy, the audience was ready with a light-hearted response: "So you're responsible, then!"

In each of her examples, Professor Mynatt returned to the idea that our health is personal, social, and negotiated, and that technological interventions often have unintended consequences. "We have to remember," she said, "that the social implications of our work are very hard to predict." But she spoke enthusiastically about the joy of helping create "new cycles of mastery" for diabetics, or the moment when the technological aspect of a solution became invisible, allowing trusted relationships to continue. Many of her research's best discoveries, she explained, came from starting not from a medical school mentality but a family and home mentality. 

Professor Jeff Huang, who was in attendance, appreciates that approach. "It was exciting," he said, "to hear from Professor Mynatt, who is thinking about accessible health data from a patient-centered perspective, rather than a traditional provider-centric solution. I heard from several students who were inspired by her ability to tell a compelling story around her research projects, sprinkled with witty sci-fi references."

You can view a recording of the lecture here.

For more information, click the link that follows to contact Brown CS Communication Outreach Specialist Jesse C. Polhemus.