Inbodied Interaction Design – CHEAT SHEET beta.1 sideA

Welcome to The Inbodied Interaction Design Cheat Sheet – Beta 0.1 Side A – the Primer
or What is INBODIED INTERACTION (II) and what are its tools and techniques to Design Interactive Systems to support human performance across the range, from Resilience to Brilliance

This Sheet has two sides – Side A – where you are now, is an overview of Inbodied Interaction (II) Concepts
– if you’re up on these, you can jump right to Side B, How To Create your Design Space with those II concepts.

Topics reviewed in this Sheet Side A:

YOUR COMMENTS on what to tune in these sides are most welcome – and will be acknowledged for sure in any formal pub. Will likely attempt to get on Arvix when y’all feel it’s ready, just so easier to reference for folks.

Exec Summary – FUNDAMENTAL concepts for II informed design.

What is inbodied interaction (II) ?
Inbodied Interaction is about how to align our designs of computational, interactive systems with how we work, as complex physical, electrical, chemical, neurological (ie – inbodied) systems. As an Approach – II, pronounced Aye Aye, postulates that if we align our designs with that inbodied wiring, then we create better designs – that support our performance – including health and wellbeing – with less effort. Inbodied Interaction also foregrounds that the body is the site of constant adaptation. These adaptations can be positive and healthful or negative and unhealthful or, as we frame it in II, they can be more performance enabling or performance disabling. So something like sitting 8 hours a day is well established now to induce more disabling adaptations. From an Inbodied Interaction perspective, sedenarism is the antithesis of aligning the design with how we work, with how our inbodied systems perform best. It creates a very performance-disabling set of adaptations.

You may say all well and good for someone who’s studied physiology, but most engineers and designers have not – and we don’t have time to do another degree program. Inbodied Interaction provides a suite of models that make it possible for engineers and designers to reliably design and evaluate their innovations for positive alignment.

inbodied interaction frames the body as the site of adaptation.
Adaptation in the body is the response to whatever is one’s context. An adaptation example we see over time, but not necessarily immediately, is getting stronger when challenged by having to lift heavy stuff with a certain frequency. An adaptation we perceive happening more rapidly is, sometimes in an instant, moving from a happy quiet conversation to heated anger or disappointment whether responding to a film or an issue at work. That shift is a real physiological shift as a result of adapting to that context along whatever patterns of responses we’ve practiced. A sunburn is another adaptation that happens a little less perceptibly for most of us, but faster than we may perceive strength adaptations.

Aside: in our Experiment in a Box framework, we seek to create experiences that enable a person to experience the effect of a process to induce an adaptation as quickly as possible. We describe this further under “Tuning”, below

Adaptation is an internal, inbodied process of change in our physiology in response usually to external factors. This adaptation occurs VIA OUR METABOLISM in order to maintain HOMEOSTASIS – our internal environment.

About the Adaptation-Metabolism-Homeostatic interplay where the body is site of adaptation for II

GO TO 9:40 into the vid of this Seminar on Inbodied Interaction – walking through the Adaptation<–>Metabolism<–>Homeostasis interactions

Key Concepts:

HOMEOSTASIS – the states of various attribute’s of the body’s internal environment that must be maintained for the body to function. A few examples are hydration level, blood pressure, internal temperature, electrolytes, ph. Each of these has a particular range of values in which functioning can take place. Go outside of this range for a sufficient period and the system is compromised. Death is a failure of maintaining homeostasis. Maintain homeostasis; we stay alive. Thus, some injuries, accidents, diseases will kill us or not to the degree they compromise our ability to maintain homeostasis.

ALLOSTASIS – (not shown in the diagram) was proposed in the 80’s as a predictive mechanism the body uses to anticipate upcoming metabolic shifts that will be needed to support homeostasis. Allostasis is proposed as the process (the verb) to support the state, homeostasis (the noun). When we wake up, our blood pressure changes in preparation for us getting up and moving around. Go for a run, the body anticipates what systems need more energy to maintain homeostasis, which is a complex interplay of signals, systems, resources. The degree, speed , efficiency and accuracy of that change, it’s postulated, is dependent on our body’s experience of our usual practices. That’s a key point: what we usually do. We are, according to current neuroscience, pattern builders. The better practice we have, and the more repetitions we have in a variety of adaptation contexts the better/faster our body can respond to these contexts. Allostasis thus is the mechanism that helps the inbodied systems manage the internal complexity that results in maintaining homeostasis. This Ramsay and Woods 2014 paper offers a very nice discussion of the relationship between the two concepts.

Some day we may talk more about allostasis than homeostasis. For now, in II, homeostasis is a functional placeholder for the physio-chemical internal environment to be maintained within particular ranges.

METABOLISM- that’s CHANGE – our bodies are constantly converting material from one state to another to help maintain homeostasis. Metabolism has THREE key change processs: changing materials to be useable by cells for the energy they need to do the next metabolic bit: catabolism and anabolism. One is to break down a material the other is to build up new material. Food breakdown is an example of catabolism; muscle building, bone growth, are examples of anabolism. The third process is recycling and removal from the system. This recycling and removal is perhaps some of the newest work in physiology. It includes processes like autophagy, where parts of cells that are worn out our unnecessary are both reprocessed for reuse of materials or removed through excretions. Another example, as food moves through the gut, some materials like bile salts are recycled for re-use. Other components like protein once catabolised will excrete – remove – amounts of nitrogen (a part of protein) that is beyond what the current Homeostatic state requires to maintain the appropriate nitrogen balance.

ADAPTATION – is the constant process and result of our inbodied processes constantly having to adjust to maintain HOMEOSTASIS. That balancing function is managed by our METABOLISM. We are Use it or Lose it Systems: ADAPTATION is therefore constant and dynamic and plastic. (see II intro in IX here for more on these points). Thus, push the body to lift heavier things that normal, the adaptation may initially be fatigue, but assuming appropriate nutrition to support this metabolic process, the body will build new tissue to support that effort; it will create further changes in other organ systems (like heart, lungs, bone, skin etc) to make the effort easier as well.

DESIGNING FOR ADAPTATION: II proposes two core pathways by which designers can affect the quality of adaptation: the semi-volitional inbodied 5 (in5) and the environmentally pervasive circumboided 4 (c4).

The Inbodied 5 (in5)

In brief, the in5 include the MEECS of MOVE EAT ENGAGE COGITATE SLEEP (short in5 paper here).

The in5 MEECS are fundamental, semi-volitional, processes that are essential for health/life, where homeostasis fails without them – but where we have some control over when, where, how much of any of these components is brought into our bodies to support ongoing adaptation or tuning in context.

We refer to the in5 as semi-volitional in contrast to internal processes that are automatic/autonomic – that happen without conscious volition like our heart beating – and processes that are volitional or consciously, voluntarily controlled, like reading this page.

key concepts: autonomic, volitional and semi-volitional processes.

The Circumbodied 4 (c4)

The circumbodied 4 (c4) includes Gravity Air Light Microbiome (GAML).

These four processes of gravity, air, light and microbiome, are the context of life – they effect all cells in our body (research backing these claims in forthcoming book chapter).

For example, light affects our main synchroniser, the supra chiasmic nuclei (SNC). These nerves transmit messages to the CLOCK genes that arepresent in more cells than not in our body that in turn synchronize various systemic processes in organs, within cells as part of metabolic organ recycling and rebuilding processes. Light cycles are affecting all of us, all the time. Too much light -particularly in the blue frequency ragnes – affects the in5 process, sleep, and that disrupts cellular repair throughout the body, not least in the brain.

Another example of light frequencies affecting us is in invisible light – the UV spectrum as per the sun burn example. That same process also stimulates the synthesis of Vitamin D – a critical signaling component for hundreds of processes affecting our health.
(Some nice work on LIGHT chronobiology here).

Similarly gravity, air, and the bacteria that make up the microbiome likewise affect us, our organs, those organs cells, chemical and electrical interactions.

The in5 and c4 are key parameters for any interaction to support human performance – from basic health and wellbeing to achieving one’s aspirations. Like writing a cogent cheat sheet to make it easier for people to use II in designs.

These are key parameters because they are (1) essential (We depend on these attributes for living, for quality of life) and (2) manipulatable (we have some control over eating and light cycles for example – or someone manipulates these around us and we are affected by these). Indeed how these key parameters are managed at an infrastructure or policy level is an interesting site for inbodied interaction co-design.

Start Anywhere A key attribute of in5/c4 is that while they are described distinctly, they constantly interact. Thus, if one wishes to get stronger or leaner, we may think we need to start with move. It may be far easier for someone struggling with this aspiration to check their sleep, and get that “strong” – and from which moving towards a strength practice will be both easier and more effective.

TUNING adaptation – how we apply in5/c4

TUNING has two roles:
(1) to support Knowledge Skills and Practice (KSP) towards developing Internal State Awareness of an Experience
(2) to build KSP particularly to be able to adjust or TUNE the parameters of the experience to create optimal inbodies state for wellbeing/performance
Tuning = Internal STATE AWARENESS <– Experience –> KSP 

A key point about the body as site of constant adaptation is that it occurs whether we consciously want it to happen or not. Adaptation is not a conscious response, it is the body responding to whatever is in the current context. We can create contexts with the intent to affect the type of adaptations but adaptations as we have seen are the effect of the constant interplay between that autonomic (non-volitional) metabolic response to context to maintain homeostasis.

As inbodied interaction situates the body as the site of adaptation, a key focus of inbodied interaction design is to support interaction design that supports adaptations that help us thrive in whatever context we find ourselves. In II we call this process TUNING (paper for deeper dive on Tuning here). Tuning asks: how do you FEEL how you feel to feel better. In other words, how well can you perceive the various inbodied signals that reflect a particular state, so that you can better TUNE processes informing those signals in order to feel/perform better?

We can frame the inbodied interaction design context as looking at the relationship between three components:

  • an experience – the thing we are doing, the context we are in that causes the adaptive response.
  • feeling – the conscious perception internally of the effects of that experience (associated with the translation of interoception into affect)
  • ksp – the knowledge, skills and practice (KSP) that informs the creation, adaptation, repetition of, and/or reaction to, that experience

This framing can be represented as

Internal STATE AWARENESS <– Experience –> KSP 

where how we feel an experience – from reading a book to going for a walk to having a fight to making noogie – is mediated by the ksp – the knowledge, skills and practice we bring to this experience to tune both the quality of the experience, and the perception of that experience

Examples of this framing can be seen in Astronaut Training; Combatives; Public Speaking; Pain knowledge.

Astronauts – think The Right Stuff – repeatedly train physically embodied worst case space craft scenarios. It is a coordinated practice of motor learning and cognitive skills under stressful conditions to create an effective adaptation that enables problem solving and performance to operate in that context.

Combatives teach people two key skills. One is how to defend themselves in various contexts where one otherwise has no experience. The other is how to see and recognize a potential threat in a person’s demeanor before they act, in order to avoid combat.

Public speaking. We have all likely heard of people who find “public speaking” terrifying. Toast Masters is an organisation initiated to help people get the KSP they need to learn the skills of that practice, and to get repetitions of that practice in a safe environment to be able to deliver a real environment performance, better, and to feel better doing so.

Pain is a complex, multi-factor experience. Significant research, not least by the NOI group in Australia has demonstrated how by having a model for the pain being experienced in the body, one can better manage how it is perceived. This feeling is not just imagined; the shifts in perception are accompanied by autonomic shifts – the signals produced to manage state in the body – that also mitigate pain.

What each context has in common is that the typical response to a perceived-to-be threatening situation – to panic, to feel fear, to see no options/escape – is sufficiently mitgated by each attribute of ksp to allow a larger space to solve a problem. Trained people coming out from these situations have very similar responses: they felt energized but calm, or as they got into what they’d practiced they felt more confident, saw more clearly, enjoyed themselves, felt exhausted afterwards.

The pain/migraine case is particularly relevant as it shows a very clear connection between the felt/perceived internal state (the migraine pain) and the ksp they bring to that experience to manage and best, reduce the perception of pain.

How well we make the connections between how we feel (state awareness ) from this practice, and how manipulating different parts of that experience affect how we feel is all about TUNING.

TUNING has two core sides informing a response to an experience (ie, the adaptation):

Perceived Feeling <–experience triggering adaptation –> KSP

EXPERIENCE – the activity that triggers adaptive response – this is TUNED by these dual sides of the what and where of where tuning occurs, that also TUNES the experience itself.

ONE SIDE -FEELING PERCEPTION: it’s about connecting an experience of some kind with awareness of what that experience feels like in the body. So connecting PROCESS to SIGNALS (and signals to processes). For example the experience of a restless night often feels like being tired or grumpy on getting up. The experience of meeting a deadline is often felt as tightness, nervousness, irritability in the body.

On this FELT side of Tuning – we talk about the conscious perception of the SIGNALS that cue our internal state. These signals often integrate extraperception – how we feel within our enviornment and interoperception – how our internal state aggregates to the brain to adjust homeostatic marker.

OTHER SIDE-KNOWLEDGE SKILLS AND PRACTICE (KSP)- Our model of tuning also foregrounds that we can affect how these experiences are felt or perceived. That our bodies are constantly sending signals to our brain about how we’re doing – that we can be rather dull about these signals – not least as we have little practice in becoming consciously aware of these state-related sensations.

Our KSP side of tuning is about designing the external experiences to support building that internal awareness to better dial in experiences for our benefit.

TUNING: MAKING CONNECTIONS – we have few bridges that connect what we’re doing with what we’re feeling. We constantly feel things without being able to debug or reverse engineer the causes and conditions to those feelings; we in fact are quite good at misattributing what might be informing what we translate simply as fatigue, irritation, delight, putting on weight, losing weight, stress, feeling relaxed.

By having better explicit awareness between causes, conditions, effects that modulate our inbodied driven states, we can have more choice about how to engage these states, to tune these states, for our benefit.

TO help build these connections between internal perception of experience and drivers and variables of that experience, this other side of tuning that focuses on understanding the drivers of experience is operationalised by what we call “KSP” – the knowledge, skills and practices that let us tune our experiences to support the adaptations we seek.

Thus a key focus of Inbodied Intearction is designing artefacts that support these dual attributes of TUNING experience.

Is going into exrta and intero ceptions imporant here – or too long?

On the application side of tuning, therefore, we consider how and where we can leverage the in5 and the c4 parameters to support a desired adaptation.

Continua: Tuning Design Parameters

II includes a suite of continua to help designers explore attributes of health-oriented and performance oriented design. These continua in particular help make explicit what is often left implicit in health-oriented design. We see that by making these qualities explicit we can better interrogate our design choices, towards an effective intervention.

One key continuum for example is Ownership: insourcing <—> outsourcing. Where in this continuum and when does the intervention place ownership of a process? Many online exercise programs are more at the outsourced end as follow along health programs, the participant can give over entire ownership of the process to the class/device. Their main task is to show up and follow along. In other cases, a person may wish to own their strength practice and so move from more guidance and instruction to less with self guided practice over time.

The current inbodied interaction continua include

  • ownership: insourcing <–> outsourcing where is the locus of control with a process over time (whole small article on this one, here)? Perhaps the most obvious example of outsourcing the inbodied is an unconscious person in a hospital whose vital signs are being monitored; who may be on a life support system as well. Internal signals are made external; internal processes like breathing are being managed by external sources. IN other words, management of significant attributes of homeostasis have been outsourced to others. An Insourcing example may be a survivalist like Bear Gryls who can thrive in any context with minimal external support, technologies or resources.
  • practice: heuristic <–> habit – this one is at the heart of the PRACTICE part of KSP – and in contrast to and complementary of, persuasive technology/habit building approach to design. A heuristic is a template that works across contexts, and so is resilient and dynamic, but requires KSP to instantiate (“get water and shelter” as a survival heuristic is great, as long as you know how to do that in the jungle vs the desert vs the tundra). A habit automates a practice so we don’t have to think about it, but it relies on context including tools – brush your teeth on rising is fantastic can be done anywhere – as long as one has a tooth brush and toothpaste.
  • state: raw <–> cyborg is about designing choices around interactive computational augmentation of inbodied capabilities. Glasses are a technological augmentation. Shoes are technological augmentation that change capacity. In Inbodied interaction, we focus on when we make these augmentations via computational interaction. The second example, SideB of this sheet, the Ena bike and augmenting one’s own nervous system to enhance peripheral awareness is an example, we’d suggest of a design towards the cyborging end of the continua. The system does not outsource peripheral awareness but augments it beyond current native raw capacity. We could use the same technology as a training aid to tune – or enhance – awareness of these signals over time, and thus improve raw capacity.
see diagram on page 51 in IX special II issue here I’d suggest now that a better framing of sleep than awake / asleep – may be sleep pressure: that is the physiological shifts that signal the body it needs to sleep or that sleep is done. The degree to which these states are satisfied contributes to how fresh or fatigued we feel on rising.

IN5/C4 as Continua The in5/c4 also enact continua as our state with any is constantly varying (see diagram on page 51 in IX special II issue here). In Eat, for example, physiologically we are somewhere between sated and fasted. Our felt experiences of these state signals are multiple: full, stuffed, slightly hungry, starving, as well as grumpy, relaxed, angry, content. Each of these signals as we develop awareness can be better TUNED or dialed in with KSP.

these continua are described in some detail in the paper Experiment in a Box


One more component of inbodied interaction design is to situate is the discomfort that adaptations usually incur.

In HCI we tend to shy away from making things “difficult”; we don’t often even think about actual, physiological discomfort, like the discomfort of boredom, the discomfort of trying to learn something and feeling frustrated, the discomfort of a workout.
We tend to want things to make us feel better immediately. When we are reluctant to “put the work in” it’s often because of discomfort; being uncomfortable.

In Inbodied Interaction – we propose that taking DISCOMFORT into account as a deliberate aspect of design, we can better build towards helping people achieve FLOW in more interactions – and embrace, in particular, healthful practices.

By taking account of discomfort, we might consider: how can we outsource various parts of an experience to limit initial discomfort but introduce it more as confidence and commitment in a practice goes up?

You can see more discomfortable thoughts in an introductory paper on discomfort design here and a deeper exploration of discomfort as design material here

EXIT STRATEGY – where is the off ramp?

This question about the off ramp came out of a 2014 dagstuhl about “designing for proactive health” (overview of those ideas here)- We as a group noticed that few current interventions designed to support health – at that point the Nike Fuel Band and the FitBit ruled – had any notion of time – when is one done with the appliance? what are the cycles of use?

Especially with the concept of TUNING – and an emphasis towards self-tuning for building and maintaining personal resilience – it seems that considering exit strategies deliberately is another material for inbodied interaction. As the buddhists say, everything changes. And as we know all organic systems die. What happens when we think about change/endings more deliberately rather than simply abandoning them for non-specific reasons.

There’s the preliminaries of Inbodied Interaction.

the next part of the II cheat sheet, SIDE B, presents a series of questions to use to build up an II informed design space addressing each of these paramenters. It also walks through examples.

looking forward to comments/questions to make this guide more helpful, useful THANK YOU

Onward to Sheet B – how to use the above II concepts to create your design space

Authors whose work contributed to this sheet include
m.c., Josh Andres, Aaron Tabor, Liz Murnane,
Mike Jones, Eric Hekler, George Muresan

first version beta .1 filed: Aug 22, 2021, Sunday; second update Aug 23, 11:48 gmt+1 thanks to comments by Hui Xin Ng of UCSD; third update Tues, Aug 25 w feedback from Mike Jones, BYU/

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