Jen: Tamirra, thanks so much for joining us today!
Tamirra: Yes, no problem, so happy to be here.
J: Could you tell us a little bit about your background in health and education?
T: Starting with my undergraduate degree, I went to University of Alabama and I majored in kinesiology and I liked it so much I decided to get a Master’s in sci
ence and health education and promotion.
J: What do you see yourself doing long-term with these interests?
T: Implementing programs to educate the general population on health, and what it means to be truly healthy.
J: I took a class in undergrad about psychosocial aspects of health and illness, and so much of what we consider healthy has to do with how we define it.
T: There’s health, there’s wellness, there’s different components to these things. Because it’s more than just looking thin or being fit or having a disease or not having a disease. It’s a lot more gray area.
J: Right. I feel like in our culture, there’s so much emphasis on looking healthy, but that doesn’t always mean being healthy. Can you talk a little more about diet culture and where you see that tie in?
T: I think it really stems from the fact that people don’t understand what a diet consists of. A lot of people end up getting eating disorders in trying to reach this level of what they thought was healthy which wasn’t for them. Everyone has a set point, where your body feels most fit, healthy, and is at its most peace, and it differs for everyone.
J: So now we’re going to switch gears a little bit. Can you tell us what is preventative medicine?
T: Preventative medicine usually ties into primary prevention for the public health
world. It’s providing the resources to people to prevent something from happening. So no need for a screening, or treatment. For example, with tobacco: no need for treating lung cancer or screening for lung cancer, prevention focuses on not smoking. Remove that variable from the equation altogether.
J: That’s a great example. So it really has to do with lifestyle changes that you implement and that has to do with educating people about how to actually live in healthy ways.
T: Preventative medicine is vital. My favorite way to think about is primary starts with a P, so does prevention, so that’s preventing things altogether. Secondary starts with an S so that would be screenings, and tertiary starts with a T which reminds me of t
J: Oh that’s so convenient! Did you come up with that?
T: No, unfortunately no. So if you don’t have a disease, there’s no need to screen for it, therefore there’s no need to treat it.
J: Okay, so it goes step by step. I really want to talk about where education and technology meet, and I know you’ve done research in this area. Coul
d you tell us a little bit about that and what’s so powerful about education paired with technology in behavioral health changes?
T: Yes. The research that I did was through the University of Alabama, and what we did was: we looked at cell phone usage in our population, which were college-aged adults, and we looked at it by sex and levels of cell phone usage. And what we found was, while females tend to be on their phones a lot more, they tend to have a more sedentary lifestyle vs. males who are on their phones a lot less but a lot more physically active.
J: So you were looking at the relationship between phone usage and sedentary lifestyle and if they were proportional.
T: Right, right. And the second way that we looked at the data was by cell phone usage, so we split it into three different groups: low, medium, and high. And the low group, people who tended not to use their cell phones, had a very high outcome of being less sedentary and more physically active. In the medium level, we didn’t really see a chang
e, it was stable across the board. In the high group, it was the opposite of the low group. The people who tended to be on their phones a lot more were less sedentary and more physically active. Initially, we were assuming a couple of things: 1) that females would be on their phones more, and 2) that people that were on their phones would be equally as physically active as the ones who weren’t. And we thought that because mobile devices are mobile, you can take them with you.
J: You can go for a jog, and be on your phone…
T: Right. What we found was that females do use their phones more and they do tend to be a lot more on the sedentary side. So if we’re using our phones a lot, but we’re not moving around with our devices, I wanted to figure out a way to get people to move.
J: So you’d say the implication of the data was that people were on their phones a lot, and the people who are on their phones more are more sedentary, so why don’t we use this fact to be a means of intervention for promoting more physical activity?
T: So when I started my Master’s program, I was in a policymaking course. And I chose to make a rationale based on college-aged students and nutrition. And I wanted to tie in a technology component because of the results we found with the research.
J: And for this specific rationale, what are your objectives for it, and then how is technology going to tie into it?
T: Having the IT come in with a registered dietician, so the students can have access to an app that we found called Lifesum. Lifesum is an app where you can track your current weight, you can track your water intake, you can track your food, and I really like it because it doesn’t force you to count your calories. It just gives you a general rating about how healthy your meal was or wasn’t.
J: Because with technology, the results of it are how you apply it. So I’m curious how this won’t turn into what we talked about, with the negatives of diet culture, being conscio
us of everything you’re eating, and everything you’re doing…how is this application of the app different?
T: Right. This application, because it gives you more of a general rating, rather than saying, “woah, you’ve had way too many calories today,” it kind of trains you to say, “I did pretty good today. I had a balanced breakfast, and a dessert, and I’m feeling pretty good about myself.
J: So is this on the app already?
T: Yes, it is. The app is fully functional. It’s free, for Android and iPhone.
J: We’re giving them really good publicity here!
T: I know, no sponsor, by the way….just an app that I really appreciate! As yo
u put food into the app, it’ll either give you a smiley face or a neutral face. When you put something healthy in, it will give you a smiley face. If you eat something that isn’t exactly the healthiest option, it’ll give you a neutral face. Which I like, because it d
oesn’t give you an angry face. Because angry faces re-teach you “bad” and that would push it more towards the negative diet culture that I would like to avoid.
J: So is this something you see yourself implementing in the future research you’d like to do?
T: Yes. Right now, it’s just on paper, but I do think it’s beneficial enough that I would really like to try and implement it. I’m actually meeting with my professor at the start of the fall, to see if we could use my university as kind of a pilot.
J: So you’re planning ahead, because it’s only the beginning of June! That’s great.
T: So fingers crossed it works out!
J: This blog focuses on bioethics and identity, so I want to bring it back into that. With the apps and the education we’re talking about, and being and feeling healthy, how does that tie in with identity? Why does it matter that we see ourselves as healthy
or feel healthy?
T: When you’re in balance with yourself…when you’re putting good in, you get good out. All of those tie into your identity. When you’re eating good, when you’re feeling goo
d, you’re active, you’re more likely to see yourself in a positive light.
J: Even from my own experiences, if I’m feeling physically healthy, like I’ve gone on a run, I’ve eaten something healthy, my mindset is so much more in the right place. It even colors how I see the world around me or different situations in my life.
So now that we’re at the end of our time together, we’re going to do our rapid fire section that happens at the end of every Implications. I’m going to give a series of three questions, and would love to hear what you have to say.
The first one is: Technology is really a double-edged sword. The outcomes and results of technology really have to do with how we apply it, so what does it mean to use technology responsibly?
T: It’s really up to the consumer to make those choices. Having the education he
lps the consumer better navigate through technology to know what is or isn’t appropriate for them.
J: What role does the technology of the time have in shaping our identity?
T: Social media is around us all the time, and because of that, we have to be selective about what we allow into our lives.
J: Why is education and technology as a duo so powerful in promoting healthy behavioral changes?
T: The education portion lays the foundation, but having the technology piece is like the reinforcer, it has persistency to keep you on your toes. Them together w
ill have the best outcome possible creating behavioral changes.
J: Tamirra, thank you so much for joining us today!
T: Thank you for having me!
J: It’s been so great talking with you.
Jen: Danny, could you tell us a little bit about your background in media?
Danny: I got my Bachelor’s in Media Studies from the University of Denver. I was able to take some classes on film criticism and learn about the different ways that scholars criticize and analyze films, and I was also able to embark on my own film projects as well, script-writing, things like that.
Jen: Oh that’s great. Now did you have a defining aha moment where you knew you wanted to study this or was it something more gradual?
Danny: I think it was more gradual. I’ve always been interested in video projects. Around tenth grade I made a YouTube channel with my friend, so I think it was more of a natural progression.
Jen: And why do you think studying media is important?
Danny: I think media in general is very impactful on our lives, and especially film in particular is just such a powerful platform for telling stories.
Jen: Could you also talk about what is mise en scène?
Danny: Yea I’d love to. So mise en scène is a French term, and it basically refers to the visual elements within a frame. So it’s everything from the people sitting in view of the camera to the props, to the setting in the background, to the lighting. Kind of like the contrast between warm colors and cool colors.
Jen: Warm would be….
Danny: Warm being like the sun, or fire, kind of orange-ish, yellow, red. And then cool colors being like ice, snow, things like that.
Danny: Yea, blue-ish. Psychologically they make us feel a certain way because of things like fire and feeling the warmth of the sun. We associate warm colors with comfort, with warmth, things like that. And overall happiness. And blue colors we associate with being cold, and that’s not a good thing. We associate blue colors with sadness.
Jen: Or like empty…
Danny: Yes, exactly. The warm filters were applied on scenes that I interpreted to be about Vincent and his imperfection.
Jen: Like when he was in the hospital. Which you usually would think would be more clinical, or sterile, more blue or white.
Danny: Right. But this is actually getting at Vincent and his imperfection. And it comes up again in scenes with Irene, when he eventually is revealed to Irene that he is imperfect but she still loves him for that. The cool colors come up in scenes where Vincent is striving for perfection. So think about scenes where he was in the shower and there’s a blue light coming down on him and he’s scrubbing his skin so he doesn’t get caught by GATTACA for being an invalid. And also the TV screen that flashes on whether someone is invalid or valid is blue…also the fridge in Jerome’s house where Jerome keeps his urine and blood for Vincent, there’s a blue light coming out of the fridge. And it’s not just any blue, it’s this harsh neon blue which is very unnatural and is just cold and empty.
So the opposite feelings that we get is that in the scenes with the warm color and the imperfection, we identify with it and feel warm and feel comfortable with the imperfection. Whereas the cold colors, the cool, the blues, it’s the perfection and the cool colors make us feel sad about that. So using these different colors, the film is actually subtly, subconsciously making us identify more so with that the whole time.
Jen: Okay, so it’s influencing our perceptions in how we view imperfection as something more favorably because of the colors, and with perfection we don’t identify with it as much because of the colors and it’s influencing us on this subconscious level.
I want to bring a little identity theory into this. There’s the concept of public and private, visible and invisible identities. And genetic content can be one of those. In today’s society, that’s invisible to other people and ourselves, largely. But in this dystopian society in the future, its public information, it’s visible, to yourself, to others. I was wondering what you thought of different visual elements and techniques the movie uses to discuss how prevalent using information of this public identity is in society.
Danny: The thing that comes to mind right away for me is just like how in GATTACA when you enter the building you have to either do the blood test or saliva, and basically your genetic identity flashes on a screen and someone right away can have a basis for judging who you are, based on whether you’re invalid or valid.
Jen: Right. And definitely with this information being so public, being so on-demand and accessible, it really creates a stratosphere in society. It creates a means of discrimination because everyone is able to have access to it. The technology is so interwoven into the society.
Danny: Something that was once invisible is now visible to everybody. So you lose that element of privacy almost.
Jen: Yes, definitely about privacy. And because this technology is so pertinent in society it influences our identity with how others view us.
Danny: You know it’s an interesting conversation right now with everything that’s happening with Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg being in court.
Danny: And how personal information is being managed at this point. With people’s demographic information being obtained through Facebook and other outside apps and now that FB has this, are they selling it to advertisers and what impact does that have?
Jen: I love that point, because it shows how this movie is more than just about this society. It’s about the applications of technology, let’s say with privacy, that doesn’t even have to be about genetic engineering.
So Danny now that we’re towards the end of our time together, we’re going to be doing a series of rapid fire questions. This is something that will happen at the end of every Implications video that will really tie all the different interviews together. And the rapid fire responses can be pretty short.
What ethical criteria should be used to draw the line between technology that should be created and used vs. technology that should just be avoided altogether?
Danny: I got this definition off your website, not just analyzing the ethical issues that arise as a result of advances in technology and bioethics but also the ethical issues that inform how we first create those technologies in the first place. And that essentially just means to have a critical eye on society to begin with on social issues.
Jen: What role does the technology of the time have in shaping and influencing our identity?
Danny: The public and the private parts of our identity are changing. I think social media really changes…in some ways you can think of how our lives are becoming so public now.
Jen: What is the role of scrutiny and skepticism in the innovation process?
Danny: Analyzing social issues before we create technologies and, of course, after we create technologies. How are they impacting society? When you’re talking about social issues and ethical issues, then there’s never a time where skepticism is a bad thing.