WEARABLES, SELF-TRACKING AND QUANTIFIED SELVES panel in 4S Denver 13 Nov. 2015

I am excited to be presenting at the annual meeting of the Society for Social Studies of Science (4S), 2015 in Denver, Colorado. I am part of an amazing panel with the title  Wearables, Self-Tracking and Quantified Selves: Embedding and Embodying Self-Tracking Technologies in Everyday Life.

My paper (co-authored with Kate O’Riordan) is called ‘Training to self-care: Fitness tracking and the knowledgeable consumer’ and is about self-tracking with the cloud-based fitness-tracking device Fitbit. Although devices such as Fitbit are at the leisure end of a health-to-leisure spectrum of medical devices, in the media the dominant frame is that they enable significant life quality changes. This paper focuses on new forms of self-training and new subjectivities relating to pedagogies of self-care with the use of wearable devices. Through a media analysis of the innovation imaginaries circulating in the media; and an analysis of the Fitbit interface, we discuss the wider context of digital health promotion, imaginaries of technoscience, and the shift from health care to health consumption.

Come if you can! Fri, November 13, 2:00 to 3:30pm, Denver Sheraton, Plaza Court 7.

Panel Abstract

The proliferation of technologies aimed at enabling self-knowledge and self-tracking – including wearable devices such as fitness trackers and mobile health and lifestyle applications – has recently attracted a great deal of both popular and scholarly attention. As a subset of the more general diffusion of mobile technologies, social media networks, widespread internet access, biotechnical developments and ‘ubiquitous computing’, this new socio-technical landscape raises new and important questions. Contexts such as workplaces, healthcare, home and social life are seemingly collapsing in their distinction from one another, and simultaneously centred (in devices) and decentred (in the cloud). Two interdisciplinary and international panels of presentations, comprising both theoretical and empirical contributions, have been organized to address some of these questions.
This first session explores the complex nature of self-tracking technologies as they are shaped by, and in turn shape, discourses of health, lifestyle, self-care and fashion. Focusing on the ways in which self-tracking technologies are embedded in everyday life practices, questions are raised about their design, promotion, governance and embodiment. Are they consumer products, medical devices or hybrids? How do they connect individuals to larger digital communities and health promotion initiatives? How do they shift normative conceptions of responsible bodies? How are assumptions about gender and age embedded in the design and promotion of devices and applications?

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