Edison Thomaz

Publications   Teaching   Vita   Prospective Students

INF380T/INF350E Personal Informatics (Spring 2018)

Instructor: Edison Thomaz (ethomaz@utexas.edu, or contact through Canvas)

Time: Thursday, 9AM to 12PM

Location: UTA 1.504

Office Hours: Mondays 1-2PM (EER 7.818) or by appointment


This will be a research-focused, seminar-style class focused on Personal Informatics (PI), a new and exciting area of study centered on streams of data that emerge from individuals. It draws upon theories, methods and techniques from Human-Computer Interaction, Ubicomp, and Data Analysis. In this class, we will go over many PI topics, including:


Academic: The ultimate goal of the class is to empower students to build new applications, models, visualizations and interfaces around and for personal informatics. Since we will be collecting, processing and analyzing data, we will be writing computer programs; for that we will be using the Python programming language. I will not be assuming that you are an expert programmer or that you are familiar specifically with Python, but I will assume that you are comfortable programming.

Writing and Speaking: This course involves significant speaking and writing skills. Assignments must be written in English and typeset. While primary assessment will focus on course material, correct spelling and grammar (along with coherence and logic) are expected and will be assessed in grading. Also, everyone is expected to talk in every class. Class discussion each week is intended to reinforce understanding of material. UT offers individual writing consultations to Graduate Students. Take advantage of these services, particularly before handing in project assignments (this of course requires starting early to draft papers early enough to get feedback from consultations and revise drafts accordingly). Undergraduate students can make similar use of UT's Writing Center. The UT CELTA Center (Certificate in English Language Teaching to Speakers of Other Languages) offers free ESL classes at multiple levels.: The ultimate goal of the class is to empower students to build new applications, models, visualizations and interfaces around and for personal informatics. Since we will be collecting, processing and analyzing data, we will be writing computer programs; for that we will be using the Python programming language. I will not be assuming that you are an expert programmer or that you are familiar specifically with Python, but I will assume that you are comfortable programming.

Readings: Critique + Discussion Questions

All students in the class will be expected to read the required readings assigned for the week (for most weeks, two readings will be assigned). Additionally, for each assigned paper, each student will be expected to submit a two-paragraph critique (i.e., what you liked and disliked about the paper), and two discussion points that we will bring up and talk about in class. These points could be elements of the paper that you did not understand or specific questions that emerged while you were reading the paper (e.g., about the methodology, instrumentation, user study, data analysis, motivation).

To write your critique and come up with the two discussion points, here are some examples of questions you could ask yourself while reading and examining papers:

You should post your critique paragraphs and discussion points to the Canvas discussion forum thread that is associated with the corresponding topic. The deadline for these will always be Wednesday at 6PM. You will be graded on the quality of your critique and discussion points.

All reading materials will be provided by the instructor or TA either in paper copy or electronically (i.e., link to PDF). There is no textbook for the course.

Paper Presentations

Twice during the semester, students will be required to present a paper to the class (20 minutes). As the paper “expert”, the student presenter will be required to read the paper in detail and prepare a set of slides to show in class. The presentation will kick off a 10 minute discussion. We will have an in-class activity where students will have the opportunity to pick their papers and topics.


Students will be asked to complete three assignments during the semester. The assignments will be due 2 weeks after they have been made available:


There will be one group project during the semester. Projects should be original research or at a minimum, have elements that are original. It is ok to build on previous ideas and studies, but it is not appropriate to simply replicate previous work.

Students will be responsible for forming teams composed of 2-4 students. During class, you will have an opportunity to describe one or more ideas that you would like to work on and see if you can form a team around it. If you cannot convince others to work on your idea, it will be your responsibility to find and join another team.

Project Proposal

The first project deliverable will be the project proposal, which should be no longer than 2 pages. All the sections outlined below should be included. The project plan you include in your proposal is just an initial plan, not a binding contract. It is your best guess initially. It is ok to revise and update it as your work progress and changes occur.

Project Final Presentation

The final class day will be dedicated to project presentations. Bring a demo of your project to class to present to the instructor and other students. Plan on a 10 minute presentation. If you cannot physically bring your project to class, bring enough material so that you can show us what you did. You may optionally bring slides or a poster to use in your demo. Don't just show us your required video; you must be able to talk and explain your project. You can use a short video clip as part of your presentation, but do not just play your full video. Turn in any presentation materials you produce (e.g., slides, video).

Project Final Report

The report should be 4-pages long following the ACM double-column format. You may submit appendices which include design documents or other diagrams such as circuit layouts. These will not count towards your four pages. You may submit a paper longer than 4 pages if you need to. However you will not receive more credit for doing so. And if you submit a long write-up that is redundant it may actually hurt your grade. Refer to the papers we have read in class for pointers on how to present your work in writing.

Links to the Latex and Word templates for this format can be found here:

The sections we would like to see in your writeup are:

Project Grading

For the project, specific deliverables are asked and should be completed to the best of your team's ability. Teams that complete all the project deliverables satisfactorily should expect a grade of 90%. The remaining 10% of the points are reserved for work that stands out in some way, in areas such as implementation, academic contribution, human-centered design, user study, performance, novelty of approach, etc.

Class Participation

During the semester, there will be many opportunities for students to participate in class activities. A class participation grade will be derived from the level of engagement observed in these types of in-class activities.

Late Deliverables

Late deliverables will be accepted for two weeks after their due date, but at a penalty of 10 points per week -- so failure to turn in an assignment at the due date results in an immediate 10 point penalty. After two weeks, assignments will receive a 0. In the interest of fairness, there will not be any exceptions to this policy.

Laptops and Mobile Devices

Productive use of a laptop or other mobile device during class to take notes, look up information or resources, etc. is allowed. However, if you are engrossed in your device and not clearly giving attention to the speaker and participating, you will be asked to turn off your device.


There will not be a midterm or final exam for this course.


Here is a breakdown of how the final grade for each student will be computed:

Standard UT Austin Course Information and Policies

Academic Honor Code: You are encouraged to discuss assignments with classmates, but anything submitted must reflect your own, original work. If in doubt, ask the instructor. Plagiarism and similar conduct represents a serious violation of UT's Honor Code and standards of conduct.

Students who violate University rules on academic dishonesty are subject to severe disciplinary penalties, such as automatically failing the course and potentially being dismissed from the University. **PLEASE** do not take the risk. We are REQUIRED to automatically report any suspected case to central administration for investigation and disciplinary hearings. Honor code violations ultimately harm yourself as well as other students, and the integrity of the University.

Academic honesty is strictly enforced. For more information, see the Student Judicial Services site.

Notice about students with disabilities: The University of Texas at Austin provides appropriate accommodations for qualified students with disabilities. To determine if you qualify, please contact the Dean of Students at 512-471-6529 or UT Services for Students with Disabilities. If they certify your needs, we will work with you to make appropriate arrangements.

Emergency Preparedness: Any students requiring assistance in evacuation must inform the instructor in writing of their needs during the first week of classes.

Coping with stress and personal hardships: The Counseling and Mental Health Center offers a variety of services for students, including both individual counselling and groups and classes, to provide support and assistance for anyone coping with difficult issues in their personal lives. As mentioned above, life brings unexpected surprises to all of us. If you are facing any personal difficulties in coping with challenges facing you, definitely consider the various services offered and do not be shy to take advantage of them if they might help. These services exist to be used.

Notice about missed work due to religious holy days: A student who misses an examination, work assignment, or other project due to the observance of a religious holy day will be given an opportunity to complete the work missed within a reasonable time after the absence, provided that he or she has properly notified the instructor. It is the policy of the University of Texas at Austin that the student must notify the instructor at least fourteen days prior to the classes scheduled on dates he or she will be absent to observe a religious holy day. For religious holy days that fall within the first two weeks of the semester, the notice should be given on the first day of the semester. The student will not be penalized for these excused absences, but the instructor may appropriately respond if the student fails to complete satisfactorily the missed assignment or examination within a reasonable time after the excused absence.

Electronic mail Notification Policy: In this course e-mail (and Canvas) will be used as a means of communication with students. You will be responsible for checking your e-mail regularly for class work and announcements. If you are an employee of the University, your e-mail address in Canvas is your employee address.

The University has an official e-mail student notification policy. It is the student's responsibility to keep the University informed as to changes in his or her e-mail address. Students are expected to check e-mail on a frequent and regular basis in order to stay current with University-related communications, recognizing that certain communications may be time-critical.


Week Topic Readings Assignments Project (Due)
Jan 18th Introduction Understanding Quantified-Selfers’ Practices in Collecting and Exploring Personal Data A0 Out
Jan 25th Research Methods How to Read a Paper A1 Out
A0 Due
Feb 1st Data Collection: Manual Experience Sampling: Promises and Pitfalls, Strengths and Weaknesses (AT)

A Survey Method for Characterizing Daily Life Experience: The Day Reconstruction Method (JP)

μEMA: Microinteraction-based ecological momentary assessment (EMA) using a smartwatch (RU)
Idea Pitch
Feb 8th Data Collection: Passive Reality Mining: Sensing Complex Social Systems (BF)

BeWell: A Smartphone Application to Monitor, Model and Promote Wellbeing (ET)
A2 Out
A1 Due
Teams Formed
Feb 15th Info Visualization Digital Artifacts for Remembering and Storytelling: PostHistory and Social Network Fragments (MH)

Casual Information Visualization: Depictions of Data in Everyday Life (JP)

The eyes have it: A task by data type taxonomy for information visualizations (CM)
Feb 22nd Dietary Monitoring PlateMate: Crowdsourcing Nutrition Analysis from Food Photographs (DW)

Improving Dietary Self-monitoring and Adherence With Hand-held Computers: A Pilot Study (FN)
A3 Out
A2 Due
Mar 1st Physical + Location Activity Sensing in the Wild: A Field Trial of UbiFit Garden (SS)

Placer: Semantic Place Labels from Diary Data (SH)
Mar 8th Sleep + Emotions Affective Computing (CM)

AffectAura: An Intelligent System for Emotional Memory (SS)

SleepTight: Low-burden, Self-monitoring Technology for Capturing and Reflecting on Sleep Behaviors (KK)
A3 Due
Mar 15th Spring Break
Mar 22nd Machine Learning I The Discipline of Machine Learning (JR)

A Few Useful Things to Know about Machine Learning (FJ)
A4 Out
Mar 29th Machine Learning II Statistical Modeling: The Two Cultures (SH)

Deep learning (AT)
Apr 5th Health Modeling Digital Health: Tracking Physiomes and Activity Using Wearable Biosensors Reveals Useful Health-Related Information (JR)

Quantifying your body: A how-to guide from a systems biology perspective (MZ)
A4 Due
Apr 12th Behavior Change MAHI: Investigation of Social Scaffolding for Reflective Thinking in Diabetes Management (BF)

Self-monitoring, self-awareness, and self-determination in cardiac rehabilitation (KK)
Apr 19th Privacy Privacy Behaviors of Lifeloggers using Wearable Cameras (MZ)

From “nobody cares” to “way to go!”: A Design Framework for Social Sharing in Personal Informatics (MH)
Apr 26th Emerging Topics You Put What, Where? Hobbyist Use of Insertable Devices (DW)

Beyond Abandonment to Next Steps: Understanding and Designing for Life after Personal Informatics Tool Use (ET)

Personal Tracking as Lived Informatics (JR)
May 3rd Project Presentations Presentation
May 10 Project Report Report

Edison Thomaz © 2018