What is a ‘Digital Epiphany’?


The research project is called ‘Digital Epiphanies’ – but what do we mean by that term?

Well, earlier in the year, members of our project team wrote a paper for the Habits Workshop at the British Human Computer Interaction conference at Brunel University which addressed just this question.

The idea is that the way we live and work now is often intertwined with digital technologies, and these can both lead to behaviours we would like to change (e.g. working at home in the evenings) or just make it difficult to assess our own behaviour (we might think we are spending far too much time on Facebook at work, whereas in fact it is not that much time). At the same time, digital technologies can give us the tools to more accurately monitor our real behaviour and feed it back to us.

“Our thesis is that accurate self-knowledge is power and that using personal informatics (PI) tools … can result in ‘digital epiphanies’ where people gain insights into their own and other people’s habits that can potentially lead to beneficial attitude and behaviour changes.” (Cox, Bird & Fleck, Habits Workshop paper, British HCI 2013)

Two types of ‘epiphany’ are discussed in the paper. The first is a ‘change epiphany’ where monitoring of behaviour leads to identification of something someone wants to do differently, but the second is an ‘acceptance epiphany’ where monitoring leads to a decision that things are OK as they are. In one study (link to paper here), they found that when students had a more accurate picture of how long they were spending on social networking sites (less than they thought) they were significantly less stressed and more satisfied with their use of social networking. The students had an acceptance epiphany: their attitudes changed and they accepted their current behaviour.

The full 4-page Habits Workshop paper can be found here.

So, do you think you’ve ever had a ‘digital epiphany’?

Until next time!

Rosie, Anna, Jon, Rowanne & the DE team



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