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PhD Defence Elizabeth Nelson | The Embodiment and Empowerment of Wearable Self-Care Technology

The Embodiment and Empowerment of Wearable Self-Care Technology

The PhD defence of Elizabeth Nelson will take place in the Waaier building of the University of Twente and can be followed by a live stream.
Live Stream

Elizabeth Nelson is a PhD student in the department Biomedical Signals and Systems. (Co)Promotors are prof.dr. M.M.R. Hutten and prof.dr. M.L. Noordzij from the faculty EEMCS and dr. T. Verhagen from Amsterdam University.

This dissertation explores the impact of self-care technologies on the constructs of embodiment and empowerment. Embodiment is to experience external objects in such a way that they are perceived as an integral part of one’s own body. Empowerment is when an individual feels competent to define and impact their self-made goals. We study these constructs within the scope of health technologies, ‘technology embodiment’ and ‘health empowerment’ focusing on self care technologies where the individual utilizes measurements such as sleep and activity to regulate healthier behavior. These constructs weren't yet adapted within self care technologies or instrumentalized in order to be empirically measured in a scientific model. Furthermore, we measure the relationship of these constructs to adherence to understanding the potential of their adoption in the short and long term. Covering the key constructs (e.g.: embodiment, empowerment, and adherence) and theories (e.g.: embodiment theory, self regulation theory), the aim of this research/thesis was to analyze how and to what extent embodiment and empowerment of wearable self care technologies influence the user’s willingness to stick to their health goals.

The findings support that self care technologies do indeed create feelings of embodiment, empowerment, and adherence to stick to their health goals both in the short and long term. Researchers can utilize technology embodiment as a measurement instrument in longitudinal studies to see if individuals continue to embody the technology and what changes can improve constructs such as adherence. Researchers can also  develop or extend our predictive model enabling further insight. Parsimonious models like the one developed, can enable remarkable discovery in part because their small nature allows for extension. While we studied key variables within self-care technologies, there are still many aspects that could be of value, for instance: trust, involvement, perceived usefulness, attitude toward use, continuous intention, habit, compulsive IT use, motivational readiness, etc. Furthermore, while we did analyze some of the demographic differences between participants, there is still much that could be discovered. Differences in generations, genders or on specific inherent traits. What if for example, there are individuals who have a propensity for technology embodiment above their peers? There is still much to be discovered. Our multidimensional approach allowed us to address the problem statement, answer our research questions, and allow future research to build upon our discoveries.