Seeing and hearing your blood sugar data as music and visuals
Sensing Sugar is an online artwork that allows visitors to experience and contribute to the production of music and visuals based on blood-glucose data. The project draws inspiration from the contemporary cultural fascination with self-tracking, and the role of diabetes self-management procedures in pioneering the round-the-clock quantification of bodily processes.
Sensing Sugar plays on the relationships between embodied sensations and quantitative data. In daily life, blood-glucose levels trace diabetics’ continual navigation between numbers (blood sugar measurements, grams of carbohydrates ingested, units of insulin injected, minutes of exercise performed etc.) and feeling (the jitteriness, irritability, and weakness of low blood sugar; the sluggishness, brain fog and fatigue of high blood sugar etc.).
Typically, numbers are taken to be the arbiters of how well one has been managing their illness and what the expected outcomes might be. The number of numbers collected and the ways of making them interpretable is steadily on the rise. This has been referred to as a “diabetes data revolution” (Kowalski, 2019) fuelled by developments in sensor technologies, such as Continuous Glucose Monitors (CGMs).
Looking beyond their diagnostic utility, Sensing Sugar proposes to re-connect the blood-glucose measurements that diabetics collect multiple times a day to feeling and affect through the mediation of audio and visual synthesis. The project creates data-driven music and visuals that aim not to provide any therapeutic insights on the data, but to provide a meditation on the aspects of diabetes and data collection that overflow biomedical interpretative logics, offering an alternative way of sensing blood sugar.
Web developer: Luciano Frizzera
I acknowledge the support of the Canada Council for the Arts.