Towards a Wearer-Centred Framework for Animal Biotelemetry

Paci, Patrizia; Mancini, Clara and Price, Blaine A. (2016). Towards a Wearer-Centred Framework for Animal Biotelemetry. In: Proceedings of Measuring Behaviour 2016 (Spink, A.J ed.), 25-27 May 2016, Dublin.


The emerging discipline of Animal-Computer Interaction (ACI) aims to understand the relation between animals and technology in naturalistic settings, to design technology that can support animals in different contexts and to develop user-centred research methods and frameworks that enable animals to take part in the design process as legitimate contributors [11]. Given existing interspecies differences and communication barriers, measuring the behaviour of animals involved in ACI research can be instrumental to achieving any or all of these aims, as a way of gauging the animals’ patterns, needs and preferences. Indeed, measuring behaviour is a common practice among ACI researchers, who take various approaches to this task [5,15,17,24]. In this respect, the use of biotelemetry devices such as VHF tags and GPS trackers, or bio-logging and environmental sensors has a significant potential [22].
At the same time, biotelemetry has been used for many years in many areas of biological research. Biotelemetry is used to improve the quality of physiological and behavioural data collected from animals and in an attempt to reduce researchers’ intrusion in the animals’ habitat [2]. However, there is evidence that carrying biotelemetry tags may influence the bearer’s physiology and behaviour [20]. Such impacts interfere with the validity of recorded data [14] and the welfare of individual animal wearers [1,3,13]. Neither of these effects are compatible with the animal-centred perspective advocated by ACI, on both scientific and ethical grounds. Our analysis of current body-attached device design and biotelemetry-enabled studies points to a general lack of wearer-centred perspective. To address these issues, we have developed a framework to inform the design of wearer-centred biotelemetry interventions, in order to support the implementation of animal-centred research methodologies and design solutions in ACI and other disciplines.

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