Capturing Flow in the Wild

David Ramsay

How are our phones and email devices altering our ability to engage deeply in our daily tasks?  How important is it to spend time deeply engaged and undistracted?  Research shows that the quality of our attention during our day is a better predictor of our happiness than what we're actually doing.  Unfortunately, studying the subtle influence of our environments and our tools on the quality of our experiences is notoriously tricky.

With this project, the Responsive Environments group aims to understand and study mental experience by probabilistically combining physiological and behavioral data from everyday life.  That data includes information from the award-winning Captivates smartglasses platform built in the group alongside two other custom wearables which measure, throughout daily life, how easy it is to interrupt a person with a tap and how substantially people lose track of time.  All of these devices provide unique insight into a user's cognitive state.

Combining these measurements with interventions that users can take home and live with is a powerful way to sculpt long-term, realistic, successful and individualized solutions to the challenges of modern life, and to support more time spent deeply engaged in meaningful pursuits.