Programme

(T102)
Everyday analytics: The politics and practices of self-monitoring
Location 134
Date and Start Time 01 September, 2016 at 09:00
Sessions 5

Convenors

  • Kate Weiner (University of Sheffield) email
  • Catherine Will (University of Sussex) email
  • Minna Ruckenstein (University of Helsinki) email
  • Christopher Till (Leeds Beckett University) email
  • Flis Henwood (University of Brighton) email

Mail All Convenors

Short Abstract

Self-monitoring is entering many spheres of everyday life. The democratisation of tracking brings both new possibilities and new legal, institutional and commercial pressures. The track will explore the practices, meanings, identities and collectivities constituted through self-monitoring.

Long Abstract

Self-monitoring is a pervasive part of contemporary life, entwined in many spheres of the everyday, for example work, health, fitness, energy consumption, finance. The analysis of these activities, once the preserve of scientific, professional and technology experts, is expanding, as the scanning, recording, memorising and tracking of daily life using digital technologies becomes increasingly possible. Yet self-monitoring involves a variety of technologies and techniques, some digital some considerably more mundane. Tracking may be voluntaristic, but may be encouraged, promoted or required through corporate and governmental initiatives - and is of interest to numerous commercial sectors. While the term 'self-monitoring' invokes the image of an individual tracker, it may involve a variety of collectives, for sharing data and experiences and creating collective knowledge. Collectives may operate at more local levels too, as people and things mediate in the everyday work of tracking.

We invite papers that explore everyday analytics, self-tracking practices and its different meaning: Who and what is involved? What emotions, projects and relationships are important in these practices? How is data interpreted? How and when does data flow where and how does it get stuck? When and how does self-tracking become embedded and normalised in everyday life? What is the scope for resistance, rejection or exclusion? We expect that the papers will contribute to either theoretical or methodological developments relating to self-tracking in practice, investigating how it promotes new forms of individuality, sociality, politics and markets - or moments when it fails to engage people.

SESSIONS: 5/5/4/5/5

This track is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

QS & Personal Genomics in France, Austria, Finland & US: A Cross-Country Comparative Discussion

Authors: Judith Gregory (University of California-Irvine)  email
Bastian Greshake (openSNP)  email
Minna Ruckenstein (University of Helsinki)  email
Eric Dagiral (Université Paris Descartes, Sorbonne Paris Cité, CERLIS)  email

Short Abstract

We consider QS and Personal Genomics meaning-making and discourses in France, Austria, Finland and US.

Long Abstract

We propose a comparative discussion (US, France, Austria, Finland) inviting consideration of the Quantified Self social movement and Personal Genomics testing, uses, meaning-making activities and discourses. We contemplate these emerging individual, collective and scientific practices by and with the lenses of STS in regards to their somewhat original and problematical nature, e.g., when we think of "n=1" (also known as "n of 1"), histories of "self experimentation" and socio-biological practices in medicine and science. Doing and making one's quantified self precisely is or looks like -- at least for some actors -- producing Science & Technology by other means, rendering medicine and science as popular and do-it-for-yourself means and self-efficacy. Moreover, such practices, projects and intentions are sometimes harshly debated, and "an essential tension" has been pointed out within QS, its many practitioners and followers. For example, we recall some strained discussions at QS Congresses when some scientists within the QS movement proposed to create a scientific journal in order to gather together the multiplicity of individual self-tracking experimentations! Many people in the room may radically disagree with such a vision for various reasons. Some aim to elaborate a possible participatory approach, most notably the Personal Genome Project (PGP) and crowd-sourcing science approaches such as Patients Like Me. In that sense, may we find relevance in envisioning the QS and PGP turns as "Science, Medicine and Technology by other means," thus regarding some of their implications, claims -- and resistances of course -- as complex societal recursos beyond socio-biological individuals?

Datafied life and contradictory evidence

Author: Mika Pantzar (University of Helsinki )  email

Short Abstract

Human heart beats not only as part of the nervous system, but also as part of social life. Based on our study Social rhythm of the heart, focusing on 35 individuals’ weekly stress profiles, my presentation explores the discrepancies between physiological stress data and subjective experiences

Long Abstract

Human heart beats not only as part of the nervous system, but also as part of social life. This was hypothesis of our study Social rhythms of the heart, focusing on 35 individuals' weekly stress profiles measured in terms of heart rate variability. Our data revealed thought provoking and notable differences in the ways mouth, i.e. self-reported activities and expressions of stress and recovery (after the monitoring period) and heart, i.e. physiological HRV measurement, recognized periods of stress and recovery. In less than a half of the captured episodes (n=169), did the heart and mouth agree about the experience of stress or recovery. My presentation elaborates the ways participants see, explain, react and contextualize these seemingly controversial findings. To what extent strong and fixed cultural interpretations of a certain situations (e.g. 'home work stress') explain contradictory interpretations of heart and mouth? We found that different routine tasks, for instance, some home chores were from heart's point of view recovering activities. Correspondingly, some activities were classified as relaxing in interviews, but physiologically the case was quite the opposite (e.g. sport activities, alcohol drinking). People found the differences between the physiologically measured and the self-reported levels of stress and recovery intriguing. In this sense our study functioned as an intervention, enhancing self-reflection. For instance, one person started to go to work earlier in the morning in order to get a couple of tranquil hours there before the arrival of two colleagues whose presence caused her stress level to rise.

The Glucometer: Figures don't lie, but women figure

Author: Maki Iwase (University of Toronto)  email

Short Abstract

The glucometer is a hand-held device for monitoring blood glucose levels of patients outside the diabetes clinic. Through everyday analytics of glycemic outputs, women diagnosed with gestational diabetes figure out subversive strategies to avert the biomedical gaze and resist further medicalization.

Long Abstract

This paper explores how the glucometer exceeds its intended use as a diabetic device for self-blood-glucose monitoring beyond biomedical practices of diabetes management. In the clinical context, the numerical figures that appear on the glucometer serve as a metric of control and function as the ultimate arbiter of adherence. These glycemic outputs represent unquestioned truths that inform decisions about the dietary regimen and the need for intensive insulin treatment. However, quotidian practices of self-blood glucose monitoring outside of the clinic tell another story. Drawing on interviews and ethnographic findings from fieldwork in a diabetic clinic located in Southern Ontario, I examine how pregnant women diagnosed with gestational diabetes employ the glucometer to resist biomedical authority and avoid further medicalization. While figures on the glucometer don't lie, I demonstrate how women figure out subversive strategies to yield optimal blood sugars values in order to convince clinicians that they are compliant with the dietary regimen and avert the possibility of being prescribed insulin. By resisting insulin treatment, women inadvertently avoid its iatrogenic effect of weight gain which ironically increases the long-term risks of developing insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. This paper examines the biopedagogical practices of self-blood glucose monitoring as a strategy of dietary governmentality and explores the effects of everyday analytics that extend beyond the effectiveness of biomedical diabetes management. Implications of these findings will be considered in relation to broader STS scholarship on everyday self-tracking.

The 'Sobjective' Self: A Paradoxical Multiplicity

Author: Farzana Dudhwala (Oxford University)  email

Short Abstract

This is a paper about 'sobjectivity'. It is about the messy entanglement between the subjectivity and objectivity of the self in the context of self-quantification. Here, the self is at once both the subject that is doing the self-quantifying and the object of that quantification. How to make sense of this?

Long Abstract

When people are using self-quantifying technologies, what is going on? 'Who' is going on? 'How' are they going on?

This is a paper about 'sobjectivity'. It is about the messy entanglement between the subjectivity and objectivity of the self in the context of self-quantification. Here, the self is at once both the subject that is doing the self-quantifying and the object of that quantification. How to make sense of this?

Using studies that deal with 'enactment' and 'embodiment' (Mol & Law 2004; Mol 2002; Moser 2008; etc. for example) as foundation, this paper discusses the new form of the self that arises as a result of using self-quantification technologies. The paper draws on material from a four year multi-sited ethnography with the group known as the 'Quantified Self' and discusses how, in this context, the self is communally enacted in conjunction with the technologies that it embodies, and with the performance of the community of self-quantifiers that it engages with. Individuality and sociality are thus found to be constructive of one another, where the self becomes a paradoxical multiplicity that is more than one, yet fewer than many (Mol 2007).

Health self-monitoring in Brazil: laboratories, test results and the healthcare system

Author: Elena Calvo-Gonzalez (Federal University of Bahia)  email

Short Abstract

This paper discusses the impact that the long-established practice in Brazil of patients being responsible for collecting and storing medical tests results has on general health self-monitoring, analysing also the ways in which it affects patients’ general dealing with biomedicine

Long Abstract

The current healthcare system in Brazil, both in its private and public forms, delegates to patients the responsibility for collecting and presenting during medical consultations medical test results, such as laboratory results, or image tests such as x-rays and MRIs. Patients are also responsible for final storage of such documents, as well as presenting them at future medical consultations when requested to do so. This system implies that patients have had, for a long time, direct access to these results and, in some cases, track their health through them, keeping a close eye in their results and comparing values. Some laboratories nowadays offer not only the possibility of accessing test results online, but also creating graphs to compare values throughout time. Based on field research in the north-eastern city of Salvador, Bahia, this paper discusses the impact that this setting has on general health self-monitoring practices (including the use of domestic devices when available), as well as the ways in which such long-established practices of personal involvement with medical test results have on patients' dealings with biomedicine.

Data Sense: People's Engagements with Their Personal Digital Data

Author: Deborah Lupton (University of Canberra)  email

Short Abstract

In this presentation, I discuss some of my current work addressing personal digital data ontologies and practices. I draw on some theoretical perspectives that I am developing and illustrate these with a case study of a current research project looking at the digital self-tracking of cycling.

Long Abstract

In this presentation, I discuss some of my current work addressing personal digital data ontologies and practices. In so doing, I draw on some theoretical perspectives that I am developing on the following issues: the notions of 'lively devices' and 'lively data'; the personal digital data assemblage; and the concept of 'data sense', incorporating digital sensors, embodied human senses and human sense-making. The discussion will be illustrated using a case study of a current research project looking at the self-tracking of cycling trips using digital devices. The approach takes a digital sensory ethnographic approach, incorporating videoing people engaged in their habitual practices as well as talking to them, in the effort to uncover tacit or unspoken practices and routines. Our research questions focus on such aspects as: What are the affective and sensual dimensions of self-tracking cycling commutes? How do people interpret the sensations that they receive from their bodies about their rides in relation to the digital data that their devices sense for them? What do their senses tell them that their sensors do not (and vice versa)? How does human sense-making operate in this context? I outline the methods of the project and describe some findings from this project.

Self-monitoring as work: office workers use of a self-monitoring device to critique their workplace culture

Authors: Amie Weedon (Loughborough University)  email
Paula Saukko (Loughborough University)  email

Short Abstract

Office workers are being encouraged to reduce their sitting time, as sedentary behaviour has emerged as a new health risk factor (NHS, 2014). This study sought to reduce the sitting time of office workers with a self-monitoring tool worn around the waist.

Long Abstract

This paper discusses preliminary findings from an on-going qualitative interview study, which found office workers use of a self-monitoring device to critique the intensification of their work.

Three main themes have emerged from the interviews. Firstly, participants stated how their sitting had deteriorated in the workplace. They told stories about how they used to go out for meetings, how the 'paperless' office had caused them to reduce even their trips to the printer and how technologies, such as Skype, were making them more desk-bound. Secondly, participants discussed how they 'tried' to sit less but were conscious of being seen as 'skiving' at work. Stories emerged about being in a meeting when the device 'buzzed' them to get up and feeling too self-conscious to act upon it. Thirdly, most participants did not wear the device during their free time, even when encouraged to do so. Some said that they were fairly active outside of work, whilst others described their weekends and evenings to be their "free time".

These preliminary findings suggest that self-monitoring is not merely used for changing behaviour, but is also used to "find meaning in everyday life", such as critiquing the work culture ((Rooksby, Rost, Morrison, & Chalmers, 2014, p.1164). Further, by refusing to wear the device in their free time, the participants associated self-monitoring with "work". These findings align with Lupton's ( 2013, p.216) critical account of self-monitoring as an accomplice of the broader culture seeking to conform bodies to certain agendas through digital surveillance.

PDF Download PDF of paper

From Quantified to Curious Self: Questioning Underlying Assumptions of Activity Tracking

Author: Nanna Gorm (IT University of Copenhagen)  email

Short Abstract

Assumptions of activity tracking are shaped by research and focus on the Quantified Self movement. This paper suggests the notion of the ‘Curious Self’ as a better fitting concept for everyday uses of activity tracking, building on a longitudinal, qualitative study of 25 activity-tracking users.

Long Abstract

Research shows that activity tracking has a "dirty secret": devices are often left behind within 6 months of purchase (Hammond, 2014). This paper suggests that this might, at least in part, be due to design and research efforts that have been shaped by a focus on the Quantified Self (QS) movement, which might not readily fit the more mundane, everyday use of activity tracking devices (Rooksby, Rost, & Chalmers, 2014). This paper uncovers underlying assumptions of activity tracking, and shows how these assumptions have lead to particular design solutions and particular uses and abuses by users who try to engage with these devices (Bijker & Law, 1992).

Based on a longitudinal, qualitative and photo-based study of 25 users of activity trackers this paper investigates the practices of activity tracking in everyday life as these develop over weeks and months. Findings from this study show how everyday activity tracking is not necessarily continuous, diligent and detail oriented, such as is often suggested by the devices and research on the QS community. One assumption of activity tracking seems to be that users will only benefit from tracking when this is done continuously over longer periods of time, which this paper shows is not necessarily the case. I then go on to suggest the concept of the 'Curious Self' as a better fitting concept of how activity tracking often plays out in the everyday life. This has consequences for the role we attribute to activity-tracking devices.

Healthier, fitter, happier, thinner or what? The emergence and meaning of values, quantities, qualities and norms in self-tracking practices

Authors: Eryk Noji (University of Hagen)  email
Karolin Eva Kappler (FernUniversität in Hagen)  email

Short Abstract

Questioning the concept of self-optimization as limited and misleading, we explore the valuing of optimization in everyday calculations both from an empirical and theoretical perspective.

Long Abstract

Under the concept of self-optimization and self-improvement, practices of calculation are recently transcending economical contexts like financial markets or human resource management, diffusing into everyday life coined as self-tracking, self-monitoring or personal informatics. Nevertheless, little is known about what optimization and improvement mean in the context of everyday analytics, covering fields such as health, emotions, sports or performance. In agreement with preliminary work, we think that the notion of self-optimization as "a detached theorizing of personal analytics" (Ruckenstein 2014: 69) limits the view, since it frames self-tracking as modes of reaction to affordances in contemporary capitalism. Thus, it hinders a "heterogenous understanding of the digital, one that does not seek to ascribe fixed characteristics" (Ruppert/Law/Savage 2013: 40).

Therefore, we analyze the emergence of quantities, qualities, values and norms in the context of self-optimization, as empirical findings suggest that users are far from just absorbing optimizing-categories (e.g. Nafus/Sherman 2014). Based on an empirical analysis of self-monitoring apps and interviews with users, we develop a first classification of optimizing-dimensions, which are both embedded in the corresponding technologies and form part of the users' practices and motivations.

From the theoretical perspective of valuation studies, we critically question the "plurality of regimes of worth" (Lamont 2012: 203), shedding light on how the corresponding quantities, qualities and values are generated, grounded, calculated and managed. In this regard, we explore the valuing of optimization in specific spaces of everyday calculations.

Doing calories: exploring (self-)tracking of calories

Authors: Gabija Didžiokaitė (Loughborough University)  email
Paula Saukko (Loughborough University)  email
Christian Greiffenhagen (The Chinese University of Hong Kong)  email

Short Abstract

Self-tracking can be seen as an ‘objective’ way to learn about your health and body. This paper, based on 31 semi-structured interviews with MyFitnessPal users, shows the messiness of number making in self-tracking by exploring the practicalities in (self-)tracking of calories.

Long Abstract

Self-tracking is often presented as an inherently 'objective' way to learn about your health and body. Calorie counting is a form of self-tracking and seemingly rational way to lose weight, however even when technologized it necessitates manually logging what you ate and to create varied, subjective practices for doing so. Based on an interview study involving 31 participants who shared their experience of using MyFitnessPal calorie counting and food tracking app, we discuss the practicalities of 'doing' calories. First, we look at the practical precision of users as the 'messiness' of the food and eating needs to be made exact for the app: how users decide what information to provide for the app and how precise it should be. Then, we explore users' practical principles - their attitudes to adherence to their daily calorie goal, users' ways of dealing with going above it and what they considered as cheating. Lastly, we present user's practical criticality - they were often critical of the accuracy of MyFitnessPal app and their own calorie tracking, nonetheless they found the app helpful in achieving weight loss, and therefore continued using it. Based on our findings we suggest that self-tracking with a calorie counting app is not an impartial and straightforward data collection, but one that involves constant practical strategies and negotiations from the app's users.

Caring by numbers: why are companies making us healthy?

Author: Christopher Till (Leeds Beckett University)  email

Short Abstract

The interest which companies are taking in health and wellness is creating a new philanthrocapitalism. Self-tracking devices and corporate wellness programmes using them help to conflate personal and corporate health with the means to achieve both seen as being predicated on the same principles.

Long Abstract

This paper will principally address the question: why are companies and organisations using self-tracking (ST) to try to make us healthier? More employers are using ST in corporate wellness (CW) programmes and commercial enterprises are increasingly pushing it as a route to better health. This paper will suggest that the interest which companies are taking in health and wellness is not reducible to the profit motive but is inseparable from it and is thus a form of philanthrocapitalism. The health of the individual and the health of the economy/organization are increasingly intertwined and the definition of health (through a focus on 'wellness') is being aligned with productive capacity to form a new corporate health ethic. Analysis of advertising materials from companies selling ST devices and of interviews with those implementing and using CW programmes will be presented. It will be suggested that these initiatives are predicated on an assumption that 'activity' and 'network connectivity' will improve productivity and wellness. Personal and corporate health are thus being conflated and private companies increasingly see it as part of their ethical responsibility to intervene in the everyday (non-work) life of individuals. Capitalist interests are thus integrated with the bodies of individuals and critiques of capitalism are countered through offering opportunities for autonomy, self-development and creative fulfilment by working on body projects. Moreover, consistent with the philanthrocpaitalist narrative ST enables the means of achieving better lives to increasingly be seen as those which also achieve greater profit.

Everyday analytics and the politics of the behavioral

Author: Minna Ruckenstein (University of Helsinki)  email

Short Abstract

This paper outlines politics of life promoted by self-tracking practices and the analysis of datafied patterns of everyday life.

Long Abstract

Tracking practices aim at understanding and influencing people's behavior, including sleeping, shopping, interacting in social media, walking, or eating. In terms of politics of life, 'the behavioral' opens a much messier life field than 'the molecular', for instance. Disciplines, including behavioral economics, social psychology, anthropology, and public health, focus on behavioral aspects of people's lives, although with very different models and expectations of how life is lived as a society. Moreover, assumptions about behavioral modification are made in fields, such as service design, human computer interaction, or social physics. Consequently, the realm of 'the behavioral' is a field of complementary approaches, tensions and debates, promoting a complex politics of life that have to do with how life should be valued, managed and modified, if at all. In light of our empirical work on various kinds of tracking practices, the field of everyday analytics suggests and supports a plethora of political aims and intentions. People practice voluntary self-tracking, but tracking practices are also implemented in different social contexts and institutions including insurance companies, factories, schools, work places and health care facilities. Each setting and context proposes its own ways of working with, and building on, personal data. By unpacking current data practices and the roles given to self, or data subjects, the paper addresses the most clearly observable and dominant features of politics of everyday analytics, but also proposes alternative directions for politics of 'the behavioral'.

Quantified health; merging clinics and consumer markets

Authors: Marjolijn Heerings  email
Ingrid Geesink (Council for Health and Society)  email

Short Abstract

Self-monitoring for health and disease leads to increased intertwining of the clinic and consumer market, creating governance issues and privacy concerns in exchange of health data.

Long Abstract

Quantified health includes self-monitoring for chronic disease management, tracking and tracing for fitness and wellbeing, and use of sensor technology and 'big data' in medical research. Measuring and monitoring everyday life assumes increased control and self-management over health and disease. But it also creates novel markets and alternative business models based on health data. Drawing on case studies from clinical practice and medical research, we investigate how consumer market values (such as profiling and big data marketing techniques) interfere with the tightly regulated relation between patient and physician. With the 'appification' and 'lifestylisation' of medicine, new stakeholders enter the health domain, such as global technology developers and medical device companies. These constituencies do not necessarily have a care relationship with the person collecting data for personal use, or an interest in their individual wellbeing.

Coming from a technology assessment perspective, our empirical research covers case studies from chronic disease management, medical science and consumer health. In addition we discuss experiences with an art installation for continuous health monitoring in relation to profiling. Addressing politicians and broader publics, we pose the question who benefits from self-monitoring of health, and which governance issues should be addressed in order to safeguard the increased circulation of vulnerable health data across domains beyond the clinic.

Illness, Disease, and Sickness: What do we track and for whom?

Author: Margaret Machniak Sommervold (University of Oslo)  email

Short Abstract

Representing different but interlinked ontologies, the phenomena of disease, illness, and sickness will inform the analysis of young patients’ adoption and rejection of self-tracking m-Health applications and the implications for the emerging fields of patient-centeredness and patient empowerment.

Long Abstract

Personal management of physical chronic conditions is becoming increasingly central as healthcare systems worldwide are dealing with decreasing resources and capacities and growing numbers of patients and demands. This development, in combination with new mobile technologies' ability to translate everyday processes into information, has contributed to a growth in the number of m-health applications, which often offer self-tracking functionalities. Mobile-based self-tracking is often linked to patient-empowerment and more efficient healthcare services. Simultaneously, healthcare professionals are warning about the varying quality of the applications and patient's lack of insight and critical look into their own bodies. There exists an inherent tension between the notion of empowerment and the dominant epistemology constituting the modern medicine practices. This tension raises questions regarding for whom patients track the self and whom they empower.

This paper analyses insights about young patients' use and non-use of self-tracking applications and their rejection of a self-tracking application 'prescribed' by their doctors. The applications described by the patients can be interpreted as representing different ontologies, which in the context of managing chronic conditions can be understood through the phenomena of disease ("having a disease"), illness ("being sick"), and sickness ("the sick role"). This paper proposes that these three ontologically different but interlinked phenomena can provide a different perspective for understanding the types of information and data collected by self-tracking applications; describe the ontologies inscribed in the various self-tracking m-Health applications; and discuss the implications for the emerging fields of patient-centeredness and patient empowerment in the field of m-Health.

Smart jewellery: measuring the unknown

Author: Martin Berg (Halmstad University)  email

Short Abstract

This paper explores the design of smart jewellery devices (the Moodmetric and the ŌURA). Engaging with various forms of empirical data as well as the field of software studies, this paper provide a basis for design oriented studies of self-tracking.

Long Abstract

Self-tracking devices and apps often measure and provide interpretations of personal data in a rather straightforward way, for instance by visualising the speed and distance of a run or the quality of sleep during a night. There is however a growing number of devices that take the data analysis further by providing insights and algorithmic advices about domains of our lives that are otherwise thought of as difficult to grasp. This paper explores two devices of this kind, namely the Moodmetric and the ŌURA which are two recently released smart rings with associated mobile apps that claim to measure emotions and rest, promote happiness and help users to perform better. Whereas several studies have shed light over how users engage with self-tracking apps and devices, little attention has been paid to how these technologies stem from dreams, hopes and imaginaries of designers and developers. This paper approaches self-tracking from a producer perspective in order to frame how users and their everyday lives are imagined by designers and how these assumptions are built into the technologies. Empirically, the paper is based on a content analysis of blog posts, marketing materials and user guides from the ŌURA and Moodmetric companies along with video interviews with company representatives as well as recordings of their public appearances. Engaging with the field of software studies as well as the emerging field of self-tracking studies, this paper aims at providing a basis for further design oriented studies of self-tracking.

The waning of the self in self-tracking

Author: Natasha Schull (New York University)  email

Short Abstract

As self-tracking practices move out of the Quantified Self community into everyday life, designers of mass-market self-tracking products increasingly abandon the ethos of intensive self-attention found QS. What becomes of the self with the automation of self-monitoring tools?

Long Abstract

What becomes of the self with the automation of self-monitoring tools? Contemporary self-tracking is regularly associated with the practices of the Quantified Self (QS) community, an international collective of individuals who ascribe—more or less avidly—to the quest for "self-knowledge through numbers." Yet as self-tracking practices have captured the attention of venture capitalists, technology startups, and powerful electronics companies, the significant challenge of user adherence has come to the fore: how to make self-monitoring a habit - rather than a burden - among mainstream consumers? In response to this dilemma, so-called quantreprenuers increasingly embrace the idea that mass-market self-tracking products must abandon the ethos of intensive self-attention found within QS and automate to the greatest extent possible the labor involved in self-monitoring: self-recording must become passive rather than active; self-reflection must become unnecessary rather than essential; and self-regulation must become a function of algorithms rather than intentional action. Designers and marketers of personal data-tracking tools pitch them as digital compasses for everyday life that allow consumers to embrace the project of self-enterprise without undertaking the tedious, nebulous, and anxiety-provoking work of lifestyle management. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork with designers and users of emerging wearable technology, this paper explores experiments in "frictionless" tracking and the ways in which they undermine the self-formational, ethical project of the Quantified Self.

Becoming Your Own Device: Promoting self-tracking challenges in the workplace

Authors: Steven Richardson (Queen's University)  email
Debra Mackinnon (Queen's University)  email

Short Abstract

Although recognized as ‘self-tracking,’ the practice significantly engages and overlaps with numerous social processes. This presentation explores some of these features as wearables, self-tracking and everyday analytics become more commonplace in Canadian workplaces.

Long Abstract

Workplaces have always sought to improve employee productivity and performance by monitoring and tracking a variety of indicators. Increasingly, these efforts target the health and well-being of the employee - recognizing that a healthy and active worker is a productive one. Influenced by managerial trends in personalized and participatory medicine (Swan 2012), some workplaces have begun to pilot their own programs, utilizing fitness wearables and personal analytics to reduce sedentary lifestyles. These programs typically take the form of gamified self-tracking challenges combining cooperation, competition, and fundraising to incentivize participants to 'get moving.' While seemingly providing new arrows in the bio-political quiver - that is, tools to keep employees disciplined yet active, healthy yet profitable (Lupton 2012) - there is also a certain degree of acceptance and participation; although participants are shaped by self-tracking technologies, "they also, in turn, shape them by their own ideas and practices" (Ruckenstein 2014:70). Instead of viewing self-tracking challenges solely through discourses of power or empowerment, the more pressing question concerns "how our relationship to our tracking activities takes shape within a constellation of habits, cultural norms, material conditions, ideological constraints" (Van Den Eede 2015:157). Exploring these themes through an empiric case study of self-tracking challenges for staff and faculty at three Canadian universities, we examine the following: How are self-tracking challenges promoted, adopted and implemented? How is the data produced, and what is it used for? By cutting through the hype, this presentation uncovers how self-trackers are becoming (and not just left to) their own devices.

"We're Not Interested in Robots": Self-Monitoring and Scientific Research

Author: Tom Clarke (University of Leeds)  email

Short Abstract

Self-monitoring practices are increasingly used to record fitness activity. I consider the role self-monitoring plays in the work of exercise scientists, highlighting the multiple ways in which these practices are implicated in the work and leisure practices of the scientists themselves.

Long Abstract

Self-monitoring practices are increasingly ubiquitous, with apps and wearable devices that measure fitness practices being amongst the most popular. Furthermore, the implications of these practices regarding the blurring of the boundaries between work and leisure has been discussed (Till, 2014). However, scant attention has been paid to how these self-monitoring practices intersect with the working lives of bioscientists, particularly with regards to the (self) participation in experiments of scientists themselves. Drawing upon ethnographic field notes and interviews, I consider how bioscientists in one particular research team engage in self-monitoring practices via their participation in their own and each other's fitness-based research, and the role that this plays within their work as a collective. Drawing upon theories of prosumption and scientific practice, I discuss how self-monitoring is instrumental in this form of scientific practice, and explore how these practices interact with scientist's own fitness practices both inside and outside of the laboratory setting. I argue that self-monitoring practices play a key role in the constitution of scientific research untaken in the laboratory, but that they also form a means of engaging intimately with the outcomes of these research practices on a personal level. By considering the links between self-monitoring and everyday scientific practice, I highlight how self-monitoring practices and communities can be identified within established institutional settings in which the creation of data is implicated in everyday work.

Till, C., 2014. Exercise as labour: Quantified self and the transformation of exercise into labour. Societies, 4(3), pp.446-462.

"The self as a laboratory"

Authors: Dorthe Kristensen (University of Southern Denmark)  email
Matthias Bode (University of Southern Denmark)  email

Short Abstract

This paper focuses on the concept of optimization in the area of human life by analysing practices of self-tracking. Through using the metaphor of digital doppelgänger the paper analyses the axis of subjectivity and objectivity that emerges from the processes of self-tracking.

Long Abstract

In modern consumer culture the term optimization has been popularized and has entered the microphysics of everyday life; it now also refers to a mode of living, as a strategy of "making the most" of life, on a physical, economic, social, mental and spiritual level (Rose 2007). On this background the aim of this paper is explore the concept of optimization and analyse how the concept that originally emerged from a public and scientific domain increasingly characterize strategies for making the most of life. To this end we explore the optimization of the self in practices of self-tracking (Ruckenstein 2014; Lupton 2014a). The overall methodology of the empirical project involved ethnographic studies of experience and everyday practices from 2012-2016 among member of the Danish Quantified Self, by combining phenomenology (Ipde 2000, Verbeek 2008) and assemblage theory (Marcus and Saka 2006).

The focus in the paper is on the human/technology assemblage, and how it is experienced and practiced. In this context the process of optimization becomes a laboratory of the self which we understand as a as a continuous, dynamic process of negotiating subjective, objective and situational tension, in this case the mutually constitution of a kind of mechanical objectivity and the subjectivity of the self-trackers s (Verbeek 2008).We analyse the interplay between what the data says and what the subject is as part of another constant negotiation of which values are worthwhile optimizing. In this way the values of human life is projected, reinterpreted and turned into lived experience.

Infrastructuring home blood pressure monitoring

Authors: Kate Weiner (University of Sheffield)  email
Catherine Will (University of Sussex)  email

Short Abstract

This paper pursues the notion of ‘infrastructure’ to consider the mundane work of self-monitoring, drawing on the case of home blood pressure monitors. We aim to explore the invisible and sometimes tentative arrangements of people and things involved in consumer-based self-monitoring as practice.

Long Abstract

The growing market in consumer devices for monitoring health means that technologies that were once the preserve of the clinic are moving into everyday spaces. We consider the domestic life of one such device, blood pressure monitors, which can be purchased in the UK from a range of high street shops and online stores. We are interested in the way these devices come to be integrated into everyday life and the range of people, things and spaces this involves. In our analysis we pursue the concept of 'infrastructure' to consider the socio-material arrangements that enable the work of self-monitoring. We draw on observations and interviews with around 30 people who have bought or used a consumer blood pressure monitor.

Our analysis pays attention to who and what is involved, for example, who buys the device, who uses it or helps with using it, who keeps records, and who is consulted. We found that although self-monitoring is ostensibly an individual endeavour, it may take work by a lot of people to make a device act. We also engage with the material aspects of self-monitoring, for example considering the emplacement of devices and how they are linked to other objects in the domestic context. We are interested in the way these might prompt use or stage devices out of use, as well as the meanings of monitoring in different spaces eg the bathroom or sitting room. The analysis helps keep in view the range of people and things involved in embedding self-monitoring.

Temporalities of Personal Analytics: emerging patterns of engagement with temporal data about the self

Authors: Martin Hand (Queen's University )  email
Michelle Gorea (Queens University)  email

Short Abstract

This paper explores how the phenomenon of self-tracking is shaping, and being shaped by, the temporal contexts of everyday life. In-depth interviews are used to show several ways in which tracking devices are integrated in existing temporal practices and generate new temporal expectations.

Long Abstract

The proliferation of 'self-tracking' devices has become a recent focus of research into 'everyday' or 'personal' analytics in several different ways (c.f. Crawford et al. 2015; Lupton 2014; Nafus and Sherman 2014; Pantzar and Ruckenstein 2015; Whitson 2013). There has been relatively little qualitative analysis of the contexts in which such devices are ordinarily used, how the data is interpreted, articulated, and shared by individuals, and how such data relates to broader practices of temporal scheduling and coordination in daily life. This paper shows how such devices are becoming integrated with established technologies of marking and making time (clocks, calendars), are being used to explicitly manage time, and are ambiently shaping 'lived time' in diverse ways. The empirical data was gathered over several months as part of a larger funded program concerned with the contours of 'iTime'. The data used here is in-depth interviews (N=30) with students aged 18-24 who use self-tracking devices. Our analysis reveals continuities between existing temporal practices, but also significant novel trajectories encouraging users to (a) rethink and reshape their conception and organization of time (b) share their data across social media platforms to regulate personal time, (c) meet new expectations about temporal management being produced through the tracked data. These findings provide insights into the normative temporal expectations of self-tracking devices, and how these are understood and negotiated both through social media and a range of integrative practices. How these devices become elements of people's media ecologies is crucial to understanding their relative significance.

Self-tracking technologies and 'active aging'; An ethnography of a sensor-based technology for the promotion of physical rehabilitation and home training

Author: Nete Schwennesen (Copenhagen University )  email

Short Abstract

On the basis of ethnographic material, this paper explores how data from a sensor-based technology for the promotion of home training is translated and become meaningful in elderly citizens everyday life.

Long Abstract

In the last decade the life of elderly people has become increasingly entangled with various self-tracking and self-monitoring technologies (i.e. pedometers, digital glucose monitors, telemedicine) which are considered valuable tools for the promotion of health in elderly citizens and the realization of 'active aging'. Whereas this development has given rise to concerns about elderly people's lack of numeracy and the identification of a 'numeracy gap' between health care providers and elderly people, less is known about how elderly people use and give meaning to digital technologies and personal data in their everyday lives. This paper takes outset in an ongoing ethnography of the implementation and use of a sensor-based technology, which is developed to promote physical rehabilitation and home training in frail elderly citizens and allows health professionals to assess from a distance, if the elderly citizen follows the rehabilitation plan. On the basis of ethnographic material I explore the processes through which data are translated and become meaningful in elderly citizens everyday life. I propose an understanding of data as an element in an infrastructure that interrelate the home and the clinic and argue that data have both place making effects (the organization of home which demands the emplacements of various objects and activities in everyday life), and temporal effects (the organisation of time, that creates a reorganization of participants' sense of the past and the future).

Access to medical records as self-monitoring: relational practices and emerging normativities

Author: Federica Lucivero (King's College London)  email

Short Abstract

Building on 25 interviews conducted with patients having access to their medical records in a primary care surgery in Northern England, this contribution discusses how patients with access to their medical records engage in practices of self-monitoring.

Long Abstract

Primary care records, containing detailed data about patients' medications, illnesses, GP and hospital consultations are a tool for GPs to collect medical information throughout the life of a patient and use it to make sense of their condition. Patient access to their GP records via a computer or a mobile phone can be considered as a form of self-monitoring. This low-tech self-monitoring practice is going to be increasingly more frequent in NHS England where GP surgeries are required to offer patients full access to their medical records through digital platform by 2018. By being able to access first hand information about their health and care, patients are expected to be more in control and proactively improve conditions for their wellbeing. But how are these expectations playing out in practice?

Building on 25 interviews conducted with patients having access to their medical records in a primary care surgery in Northern England, in my contribution I discuss how patients with access to their medical records engage in practices of self-monitoring. In particular, I focus on the relational aspect of these practices and the interdependence of family, institutional and care relationship in the construction of the self-monitoring space.

Because of its low-tech and mundane character digital access to health records offers an interesting angle to understand practices of self-monitoring and emerging normativities therein.

'How are We Doing?': One American Single Mother by Choice Family as a Case Study of Neo-Liberal Self-Regulation

Author: Linda Layne (Cambridge)  email

Short Abstract

An on-going, in-depth case study of one American Single Mother by Choice is used to analyze how family life is another arena of everyday analytics and neoliberal self-monitoring and regulation.

Long Abstract

I draw on my on-going, in-depth case study of one American Single Mother by Choice to analyze how family life is another arena of everyday analytics and neoliberal self-monitoring and regulation. Inspired by a blog that applies science to everyday life, Carmen and the three children she conceived using the same sperm donor hold weekly family meetings at which they evaluate how successful they have been in actualizing their goals with regards to health, education, kindness, and self-discipline. Individuals have been the focus of most scholarship on this topic. In this case, the focus is on a collective--a family that has chosen to model itself on successful business organizations.

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