Creative sonifications of a week’s worth of blood sugar data
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Hemo-resonance #2 explores contemporary practices of self-tracking and datafication through the lens of diabetic self-management, asking how bodily data can be used as an artistic resource. Working with my personal archive of blood-sugar data from living with Type 1 diabetes, I generate interactive, web-based, creative sonifications that question common understandings of data and its utility. As quantitative data is increasingly put in the service of maintaining idealized healthy bodies, I challenge the instrumental approach to data, asking what else data can do. How can data be creatively re-oriented to make space for other reflections and aesthetic experience rather than being harnessed for the achievement of ideal results?
Through the project I explore affective and sensorial possibilities of data and focus especially on temporalities of bodily data, suggesting something other than a linear progression towards either health or illness. I use a week’s worth of my blood-sugar data to drive generative sound synthesis processes, creating a multilayered sound environment for each blood sugar reading. Normally, I check my blood sugar 4-10 times a day by drawing blood from my finger and feeding it into a glucose meter. I use this blood sugar data to help determine whether I need to eat something and/or how much insulin I should inject. The data is central to evaluating how well I’ve been managing my condition, what action I should take to improve my results, and what future outcomes I should expect. With target blood sugar levels of between 4.0 mmol/L and 8.0 mmol/L, for me and many other diabetics, numbers that fall outside the target range provoke emotional reactions – frustration, anxiety towards the future, feelings of failure etc. Hemo-resonance #2 attempts to provide a space where our relationships with blood sugar data can be, at least temporarily, re-oriented.
Moving away from the pressures of attempting to constantly maintain “good” numbers, Hemo-resonance #2 presents every number as a complex, continually shifting sonic world. In doing so, the work suggests the complexity of all the factors that influence a single blood-sugar reading but are not visible in the number. In Hemo-resonance #2 each blood sugar reading’s sonic environment is actually determined by the three blood sugar readings taken before it and the three blood sugar readings taken after it. Bodily data from the past and future co-mingle in the present. This disrupts the usual constant forward flow of data, as each blood sugar reading now becomes a unique sonic environment that can be dwelt in indefinitely. Through this diversion of quantitative data from its usual purposes, I hope to create a space for meditative reflection on the relationships between data, bodies, illness, health, and temporality.
I acknowledge the support of the Canada Council for the Arts.