Cycles of emotions – Feminist self-tracking of emotions during the menstrual cycle

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School of Arts, Design and Architecture | Master's thesis
Degree programme
Master's Programme in Collaborative and Industrial Design
105 + 117
Although investors, entrepreneurs, and consumers celebrate the skyrocketing of the Female Technology industry as progress in the empowerment of women, feminist scholars highlight the risks of datafying the bodies of people who menstruate. Apps and wearable devices, such as digital menstruation trackers, can put stress on menstruators to conform to an algorithmic ‘norm’ and control their natural bodily changes, ultimately increasing feelings of alienation from their own bodies by attempting to narrow fundamentally diverse, varying, and natural processes into neat datasets. Moreover, trackers commonly concentrate on the cognitivist recording of physical symptoms and frequently fail to include the embodied, emotional variations a person is likely to experience at different points throughout their menstrual cycle. Therefore, this thesis researches whether or not applying embodiment practices when tracking emotions can enhance menstruators’ emotional awareness and connection to their body throughout their menstrual cycles. The thesis follows a research through design approach, which was initiated by autoethnographic experiments, to explore different means of recognising and tracking embodied emotions. These findings then informed the development of Cycles of Emotions – a kit of design probes to help users to recognise emotions in their body and express them via crafting a chain of colourful wooden beads. After pilot testing with experts, six participants utilised the Cycles of Emotions kit over a full menstrual cycle. The follow-up interviews reveal how the embodied speculations enable menstruators to embrace the emotional variations they experience throughout their cycle and connect more deeply with their bodies. The thesis translates the research insights into written recommendations that, in turn, demonstrate how menstruation trackers which record emotions can be designed in a more feminist way.
Salovaara, Antti
Thesis advisor
Søndergaard, Marie Louise Juul
feminist HCI, research through design, menstrual cycle, women’s health, self- tracking, menstruation tracker, emotion, embodiment
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