Narrative Biosensing

Commercial biosensors can measure a host of physiological processes, including heart rate, blood oxygen levels, activity, cycles of sleep—even emotions. They promise self-improvement by providing clear metrics and recommendations that can lead to better health, performance, and self-care practices. Yet, and perhaps especially when it comes to the body, discrete data is not always an accurate—and definitely not a comprehensive— account of what is really going on. But what is going on? How can we leverage biosensing technologies to produce more subtle, open, and expressive accounts of the body and its many (ambiguous) signals?

To answer this question, we designed and built the Bodyteller, a device that records electrodermal activity and translates it into poetic texts. The texts were then shared between us for a period of four weeks. In this period, we exchanged these “body-poems,” which, far from revealing our bodies, thickened and blurred them, creating a multilayered encounter with poetic texts that ultimately pointed toward new possibilities for representing biosensing data in everyday life.