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Emotional Biosensing: Exploring Critical Alternatives


Emotional biosensing is rising in daily life: Data and categories claim to know how people feel and suggest what they should do about it, while CSCW explores new biosensing possibilities. Prevalent approaches to emotional biosensing are too limited, focusing on the individual, optimization, and normative categorization. Conceptual shifts can help explore alternatives: toward materiality, from representation toward performativity, inter-action to intra-action, shifting biopolitics, and shifting affect/desire. We contribute (1) synthesizing wide-ranging conceptual lenses, providing analysis connecting them to emotional biosensing design, (2) analyzing selected design exemplars to apply these lenses to design research, and (3) offering our own recommendations for designers and design researchers. In particular we suggest humility in knowledge claims with emotional biosensing, prioritizing care and affirmation over self- improvement, and exploring alternative desires. We call for critically questioning and generatively re- imagining the role of data in configuring sensing, feeling, ‘the good life,’ and everyday experience.

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