What You Should Know About the Human Screenome Project


Today, people rely more heavily on digital devices than ever before, and the trend shows no signs of stopping. While technology is ubiquitous in our personal and professional lives, some are concerned about the potential negative impacts of prolonged screen time. 

Do ongoing use of back-lit screens and digital stimulation lead to mental disorders, concentration issues, burnout, or other cognitive issues? The Human Screenome Project has set out to answer this question and dig deeper into the effects of screen time. Here’s what you should know about the initiative.

What is the Human Screenome Project?

Cleverly named after the Human Genome Project, a 13-year research study aimed at determining the base pairs of human DNA and mapping all human genes, the Human Genome Project’s overarching goal is to determine the short- and long-term impacts of modern-day digital screen use.

The project is led by researchers at Penn State University and Stanford. It will involve measuring, recording, and analyzing the activities, behaviors, and relationships people have with their tech devices. When the Human Screenome Project wraps up, the research teams plan to deliver detailed analysis on whether screen time is at all responsible for negative social behaviors and health problems.

We depend on our smartphones, tablets, computers, and TVs for knowledge, news, information storage, social interactions, entertainment, directions, calendaring, work, and even to tell the time. The Human Screenome Project will monitor, review, and analyze virtually every action people take on their devices.

How will the study work?

How will researchers get all this data? Participants have agreed to share their information, allowing a mass data collection for the study. 

Specialized software was developed specifically for the Human Screenome Project. Once implemented, the software takes screenshots every five seconds while a device is in use. The screenshots are then encrypted and sent to a server. After that, AI algorithms evaluate the images, and these evaluations are then analyzed by the research teams.

Currently, there is very little scientific data showing the effects of extensive screen time. Until now, most of the research has involved self-reporting on how much time people spend on their devices or how often they check social media and other apps.

The researchers working on the Human Genome Project theorize that it can be difficult to accurately recollect screen use. As a result, many people underestimate (and sometimes overestimate) their screen time. The project will provide the most accurate collection of data to date, with massive shareable databases presenting valuable information while protecting participants’ privacy.

Similar to the Human Genome Project, the study aims to “map” the ever-evolving digital lifestyles of humans in the twenty-first century. The nearly constant screenshots will offer a virtually uninterrupted view of these behavioral patterns and changes. With the Human Screenome Project, mapping the data could provide groundbreaking information about the relationship between human health and technology.

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