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Heart Sense: Reflections on
Physiology and Embodiment

How can the very creation, rendering, and experiencing of biological data contribute to a more nuanced understanding of our bodies? How can it contribute to a kind of knowing that is in and of the world? How can it break down binaries that have been the subject of criticism in the sciences such as objectivity and subjectivity; self and other; individual and social?

Heart Sense is a series of installations that visualize biometric data such as heart rate and breath a s participants engage in a variety of listening and viewing activities. By creating, visualizing, and reflecting on these data, we strive to approach physiological data for its capacity to inspire an epistemological and experiential engagement that challenges and complements dominant manifestations in standard scientific imagery or the renderings of quantified self. More specifically, our bodies are often conceived as separate autonomous entities, disjoint from the physical and social environments that they inhabit while in fact we are deeply connected, physiologically, with the physical and social world around us. Heart Sense seeks to engage participants in a shared understanding of the social and interconnected nature of our embodiment. 

This exhibit includes two installations:

The first installation takes a participant’s heart rate, galvanic skin response, and breathing as input to produce flower-like visualizations that illustrate physiological responses to a short, emotionally engaging video. The visualizations work athwart standard body tracking visualisations by presenting representations that are whole and designed not to be optimizable. They give participants a sense of their embodied responses to the video and a chance to reflect on their embodied responses in the process.

The second installation engages the social dimension of embodiment through the mediation of the physical environment. Our heart rates come into relation with the heart rate of others when we hold a child or the rhythms in our environment as when we listen to music. For this installation, participants are invited to sit around a table and are given headphones to listen to music. A floral visualization representing the collective heart rates of the participants will be projected onto the table, the size and the colors of each petal shifting with changes in each participant’s body. The visualization showcases how our bodies come into relation with each other and are in and of the environment, as they respond to our surrounding conditions even when we are not aware of it.

Heart sense documentation: http://heart.lmc.gatech.edu

Heart sense demo: http://heart.lmc.gatech.edu/videos/video.mp4


  • Aaron Shackleford
  • Sylvia Janicki
  • Michelle Ramirez
  • Shubhangi Gupta
  • Aditya Anupam