Opportunities of Quantified Self for resocialisation of (ex-)convicts

This is an insight into the design process for the Intention Mirror project. Inclusive user research with former convicts helped design a product that would give ownership of their return into society and help reduce their distrust towards self-tracking technology.

Mick Jongeling


This article summarises a late-breaking work that will be presented at CHI 2019, a conference of Human-Computer Interaction, on Tuesday, 7th May 2019.

A composite of the final prototype. Wearable, application and ambient visualisation.

Each year, 34.895 people are sentenced to imprisonment in the Netherlands. Leaving prison is a very stressful moment, causing a lot of unnecessary confusion and frustration that contributes to 47% of them having a new criminal case within two years. Former convicts receive assistance in many ways but not in one crucial area: Understanding their stress levels. Reflexion is a prototype to help ex-prisoners monitor their stress levels and learn self-management. One day, everyone should have to opportunity to gain insight into their emotions using technology.

Inclusive User Research

The team conducted interviews with ex-convicts and caretakers currently participating in the Exodus program. The Exodus foundation has contributed to a safer and more inclusive society by supporting ex-offenders and their relatives to restore their lives after detention and avoid future criminal behaviour. Living in an Exodus house means you have started to get a work-life balance in society and are looking to positively change your behaviour. The first prototype: a paper prototype of a smartwatch, was tested with the Wizard of Oz technique to a group of caretakers and participants. Testing gave insights into how the end users would perceive products that would track their behaviour.

The paper prototype had different interfaces that explained a ‘reward’ system for good behaviour. The interfaces had various tone of voices, teaching us which participants were more responsive too.

Key learnings from testing were:

  • The interaction with the device should evoke trust and promote ownership for the end-user.
  • The end-users welcomed the element of sharing their progress with third parties, such as caretakers and other end-users.
  • The caretakers used a method called the ‘Thermometer’, a form of three colour coded segments where the client can indicate their experience of certain events.
  • Caretakers give the space to engage conversation and let the participants lead the conversation.
  • It is important for the user group to learn the effect of their stress levels on their behaviour.
These were the four major parameters the prototype had to fulfil.

Stress is one of the main causes of behavioural changes. The related steps such as frustration, aggression and even physical expression of their stress can influence the way participants to interpret certain events and their actions regarding it. The possibility to receive insights in your daily behaviour was helpful for caretakers as a conversation starter to get more constructive conversations.

Reviewing a variety of prototypes with a caretaker at an Exodus House location. Testing on location gave the design team a better context of the final concept.

Final Prototype

The design process guided us to create a system of products that could support the participant by letting them have ownership of recorded values. We called this the ‘Reflexion’ process.

A wearable will measure excitement and stress, as well as pin the GPS location and time of an event.

The recorded values are communicated to an Ambient Visualisation that communicates with the thermometer colours. It syncronises with the wearable with RFID. The ambient visualisation gives the user an overview of their values and helps them reflect on their day.

A mobile application shares these recorded values with caretakers and other trustees. Participants have the opportunity to negotiate measured values. If there is an activity that is incorrectly labelled as ‘stressful’, the participant can choose to turn this into a calm measurement. Vice versa, if a participant experienced a situation as highly stressful, the event can be labelled as such.

The process of the Ambient Visualisation. From a sketch, open circuit and user test to the final prototype.
An animated user journey through the application.

The goal is to create an understanding system that thinks along with the behaviour and needs of the user. We hope to implement machine learning for this in the next iteration of the project. If you would be interested in getting more insight into the project, please proceed to the video below.

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Mick Jongeling
Writer for

Art Director based in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Editor futuredoing