From The Art of Reflection to The Art of Noticing: A Shifting View of Self-Tracking Technologies’ Role in Supporting Sustainable Food Practices (CHI LBW 2021)


This paper explores the possibility of using self-tracking technologies to promote sustainable food habits. To explore socio-cultural aspects in food practices and to understand the potential role of self-tracking tools in participants’ everyday lives, we designed and deployed a probe kit with seven participants. We found that (1) participants had differing, and at times conflicting, conceptions of what made their diet sustainable; (2) they viewed self-tracking tools as an unobtrusive means to help them achieve a goal–but didn’t report that those goals were ever met; and (3) they expressed strong associations between particular eating behaviors and rituals and/or holidays. Reflecting on the results and the concept of design (in)action, we suggest an alternative way of designing self-tracking tools for self-reflection (i.e., the art of noticing) that might help people draw attention to the impact of their food practices on the environment. We conclude by recommending a shift in focus from traditional and “always-on” self-tracking solutions to everyday practices, holidays, or rituals in which a technological tool could bring more attention to a particular facet of food sustainability.

Keywords: reflection, sustainability, cultural probes, self-tracking, noticing, food, inaction, human-food interaction

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