How Quantification Practices and Monitoring Technologies Produce Subjectivity
Gadgets and applications are increasingly being developed and used for tracking, quantifying, and documenting everyday life activities and especially health and fitness devices such as GPS-enabled sports watches are well-known and popular. However, self-surveillance practices involving networked technologies can be found across many domains, including culture, food, learning, work and general living. Individuals use tools and techniques to track themselves, thereby translating their own habits, bodies, moods, and thoughts into objects to scrutinize and transform. In addition, self-tracking is often coupled with social interaction and sometimes framed as entertainment or games. Facilitated by online community and social networking sites, the possibility of collecting and sharing data is a significant feature of these self-monitoring technologies. They all include sharing features where weight, blood pressure, fitness activities, sleep cycles, etc. can be broadcasted, e.g. as tweets on Twitter or status updates on Facebook. Such quantification practices with monitoring technologies become co-producing when individuals constitute themselves as subjects engaging in self-tracking, self-care, and self-governance. The paper is guided by the following research questions: How does the translation of self into a quantifiable object produce subjectivity (as patient, athlete, learner, worker, etc.)? What role do potentially fragile technologies play in the mediation of the self? How do social interaction, entertainment, and gamification modulate the enactment of selfhood? How does self-surveillance contribute to corresponding notions of self-optimization and self-cultivation such as “the good life”, “sustainable lifestyle”, “healthy living”, “good learning” and “work productivity”?
Main Research Area:
Annual Meeting of the Society for Social Studies of Science (4S), 2013