Gender, self-tracking and feminism Podcast

dhdc-podcast-logo-4A while ago I was interviewed by Chris Till  for his exciting podcast Digital Health/ Digital Capitalism. It was an interesting discussion and Chris asked me about a few things: we talked about the concept of “biopedagogy” and training with wearables and other tracking technologies, which I wrote about with Kate O’Riordan in a special issue about self-tracking in Health Sociology Review, edited by Deborah Lupton. We also talked about gender and the Quantified Self, which I analyse in Chapter 4 (“From Egg Donation to Fertility Apps: Feminist Knowledge Production and Reproductive Rights”) of my new book Feminist Activism and Digital Networks.

I also taked to Chris about how I am thinking about the moral economy of data sharing and how we perform ‘good citizenship’ with self-tracking technologies, which I have written about in a fantastic new book (more info to follow soon). And of course we talked about my research on fertility apps, which is also a forthcoming publication.

The podcast series has been hosting very influential scholars who think critically about  digital health, so it is really worth listening to if you are interested in the field.

Feminist Activism and digital networks :Talk @University of Leeds

9781137504708On Wednesday last week, I had a great time talking about feminist activism and digital media at the School of Media and Communications, University of Leeds, amongst the company of good friends and colleagues. Nancy invited me to speak in the Department’s Research Seminars last year, and I finally made it there this year, just two weeks after my book ‘Feminist Activism and Digital Networks: Between Empowerment and Vulnerability’ got published.

So I thought that talking about feminism in this Research Seminar now was important. Feminist and queer activism are constantly shifting and changing as the identities that are associated with them change, but it is in this historical and sociopolitical conjunction that feminism seems more relevant than ever to people, to their everyday lives and struggles in a very bleak world. In the last few months, we have witnessed how feminism just ‘clicked’ – millions of people recently marched around the world against Trump’s misogyny and right-wing populism, and digital culture has been thriving with feminist memes, hashtags and other forms of participatory media that has given many of us hope about the future of bottom-up organizing. It is the first time after many years that feminist issues are the central issues in cultural and political life, and not just the preoccupations of feminist. The first time in years of feminist backlash when we are not operating within an assumption that feminism has met its aims and is a matter of the past; it clearly has not.
CuNOs3CXYAENcM4But as feminist cultural production flourishes in the streets and online, so does hate speech, cyberbullying and online misogyny. I showed the audience of the talk the top results that my search of the word ‘feminism’ returned on YouTube on Monday. YouTube is populated with Feminist Cringe, a supposedly comedy genre that ridicules feminists who are articulating any kind of counter-discourse to the misogyny in the media and in protests. The hate speech that the comments attract is appalling and worrying, and it begs the question: are we taking one step forward and two stps backwards?

4500But do these comments really matter, you may ask? Can this kind of online anonymous, and perceived as intangible hate speech really hurt a movement that is physically present in the streets? How much power do social media actually have? I think they do – and in what followed in my speech I tried to unravel how I think about the complex dynamics of content production and control that constitute online networks as contradictory spaces of both vulnerability and empowerment for feminist and queer politics. In this long talk, I visited some of the key concept in my new book. A key theoretical concept that I introduce is that of biodigital vulnerability. My argument is that corporeal vulnerability, and the new forms of governmentality that appear due to technoscientific acceleration, when made public can have great political potential and can be empowering for communities and individuals that have been marginalised or victimised due to sexuality or gender.

Through a discussion of the development of the concept of biodigital vulnerability and a key investigation of the different temporalities of digital media and everyday activism, in this talk I revisited the central themes of the book: labour, embodiment, affect, practices and materiality.

Watch this space for the slides from the talk!

Materiality, Publicness & Digital Media

cropped-headerI look forward to talking at the workshop Materiality, Publicness and Digital Media, at the University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam Centre for Globalisation Studies. The workshop is part of the Series ‘Trajectories of Publicness and Contestation’ series, (25-26 October 2016). This second workshop in the series focuses on materiality, aiming to explore and theorize how popular protests are articulated through particular technologies and material settings (ranging from face-to-face communication to global social platforms), which ‘mediate’ how these protests take shape.

My session is called (Dis)engagement & Disobedience (Chair: Stefania Milan), with co-speakers Anne Kaun (Södertörn University) who will be talking about ‘Disconnection activism: the slow media movement’, Sebastian Kubitschko & Sigrid Kannengießer, (University of Bremen) who will present on ‘Repairing and hacking as examples of acting on materiality’, and I will be talking about ‘Feminist ‘smart’ publics: Feminism in the era of the Quantified Self’ – work that I have developed in my book and here.

Feminist Big Data & session Bodies in #Aoir2016 Berlin

I can’t wait to talk about feminist research methods, big data and self-tracking in Berlin.

fleshmachineOn Thursday, October 6 between 16:00 – 17:30, I will be presenting work in the Panel ‘Bodies’, chaired by Gina Neff. My paper is about Feminism in the era of the Quantified Self: Agency, labour and future markets. I examine dominant discourses of empowerment in apps targeting women (reproductive health and well being), and I discuss how far data collection has the potential to make the voices of women heard, beyond the articulation of consumer demands about digital health. This is new work in progress. 


On Friday, October 7, between 11:00 – 12:30, we’re discussing feminist approaches to big data culture with Helen Kennedy (Sheffield), Jean Burgess, Kate Crawford, Rosemary Lucy Hill, & Kate O’Riordan, in the first roundtable session. The plenary session focuses on visions and imagining of feminist big data futures. The key question is: what would feminist big data, data studies and datavis look like? And as the organiser Helen K. put it in the abstract for the session: ‘How can and should feminists respond to the rise of big data? Given that critique of the assumed objectivity and neutrality of big data and related methods has a feminist history, feminist scholars are well-placed to respond to the problems that big data usher forth. One outcome of objectivity critique is a heavy reliance on qualitative methods in feminist research, yet it is precisely because of the types of problems that feminist scholarship has been so good at identifying that there is a need not just for feminist critiques of quantitative methods, data and assumptions of objectivity, but for feminism to do big data and data visualisation. In other words, we need feminist data studies which is active in creating, representing and communicating data. How do we move forward from critiques of data as not really objective, but cooked, to understanding how and why it matters to feminists and feminism? How do we respond to Haraway’s proposal that encoding and visualisation are inherently patriarchal projects? What might feminist big data, data studies and datavis look like?’

Thinking about self-tracking, wearables & biopedagogy

fitbitDelighted that the article I wrote with Kate O’Riordan (as part of our EU-funded EPINET project) on wearable sensors and fitness tracking has now just been published online in the academic journal Health Sociology Review  here. It is part of a special issue on self-tracking, edited by Deborah Lupton, and I can’t wait to read the cutting edge work of other colleagues in this same volume. The article is called ‘Training to self-care: fitness tracking, biopedagogy and the healthy consumer’ and it is  based on research around Fitbit, a wearable sensor device, through two complementary analytical approaches: auto-ethnography and media analysis. Drawing on the concept of biopedagogy, which describes the processes of learning and training bodies how to live, we focus on how users learn to self-care with wearable technologies through a series of micropractices that involve processes of mediation and the sharing of their own data via social networking. Our discussion is oriented towards four areas of analysis: data subjectivity and sociality; making meaning; time and productivity and brand identity. We articulate how these micropractices of knowing one’s body regulate the contemporary ‘fit’ and healthy subject, and mediate expertise about health, behaviour and data subjectivity.

You can download the article here