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 http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/14461242.2016.1184582

Feminism, hormones and the Quantified Self: Imagining data futures

I look forward to talking about feminism and data in the University of Leeds (School of Media and Communication) soon. This is work that will appear in a Chapter about reproductive rights, digital media and feminism in my forthcoming book, later this year.

March 23rd, 2016 | Time: 16:15 — 17:30

Media and Communication, University of Leeds

Room G.12, Clothworkers’ North Building.

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Feminism, hormones and the Quantified Self: Imagining data futures

There is a proliferation of tracking apps today that can be used to monitor fertility and reproductive hormones (Lupton, 2015). Reproductive control has been a key issue for feminism, and women have always logged their data in some way; however, it is with digital technologies and smart phones that data collection carries a promise of significant life changes. 

Although the Quantified Self has been described to be mostly about ‘toys for boys’, smart, geeky, talented’ women involved in sensor hacking organise women-only Quantified Self meetups in the US, to discuss hormonal tracking. At the same time, projects such as the Hormone Project aim to bring together women who self-track, doctors and researchers, in order to influence innovation in biotech and personalized health. This paper examines such developments and asks how far data collection has the potential to make the voices of women heard, beyond the articulation of consumer demands about digital health. Placing my analysis within frameworks of gendered and reproductive labour and their centrality to global capitalism (Dickenson, 2007; Franklin and Lock, 2003; Thompson, 2005), I discuss how the material and semiotic intersect in the making of data and feminist futures.

 

Autumn 2014 update!

There has been so much going on during the last few months and so little time to update the blog! After coming back from the States (my activities there are summarised in this report:  AFotopoulou_Nemode End of Placement052014 –Tracking biodata: Ownership & sharing, research placement output, RCUK Digital Economy NEMODE), I’ve been busy writing up a bunch of articles. My research in San Francisco was only partly about the Quantified Self (there is plenty of ethnographic research being done by anthropologists at the moment, such as Dawn Nafus), and it has resulted in a rather sociological approach to the phenomenon – which got published recently in Open Democracy. Here I raise some questions about the political potential of formations that engage with data policy in some way or another (such as the Quantified Self), and propose that this experimental engagement (a bit geeky, technical, but at the same time involving storytelling and meeting offline) might signify a new type of public, what I heuristically call ‘smart publics’. Of course this idea, and a theorisation of ‘smart publics’, is developed more clearly in an academic article (forthcoming, watch this space!).

At this point, priority for me has taken writing about cultural understandings of data sharing, and the underlying discourses that circulate in the media, particularly in fiction. I have been exploring how circulating ideas of ‘data utopia’ (a utopia of data abundance and a particular vision of democracy) informs user practices. I happily completed a draft of the article, with a working title ‘All these emotions, all these yearnings, all these data’ and due for submission any time now, during a three-day writing retreat at Forrest Hills, in Lancaster, organised by the Department of Sociology. Of course I’ve been testing these ideas since February this year, first in an invited talk at the Center for Cultural Studies, University of California, Santa Cruz, and then at Crossroads 2014,  the Cultural Studies Conference, in July in Finland, in a panel on Permeable Boundaries: Bodies in Science, Medicine, and Culture.

Joining the Department of Sociology in Lancaster University, on September 1st, has of course been absolutely thrilling – it’s a top department and a great fit for my work – especially because of the Centre for Science Studies and the Gender & Women’s Studies Centre (with current directors Imogen Tyler & Celia Roberts, and former directors Jackie Stacey, Sara Ahmed, Celia Lury, Bev Skeggs, Gail Lewis, Lynne Pearce, Anne-Marie Fortier, Vicky Singleton and Maureen McNeil). I have now the opportunity to complete my monograph ‘Feminist activism and new media: digital and networked by default?’, which will be published by Palgrave MacMillan in 2016. This is based on my PhD thesis but will include some new research and a refined theoretical framework. I pose a question in the subtitle, which many people have found intriguing – and I explain why I pose the question in the article Digital and Networked by default? Women’s organisations and the social imaginary of networked feminism, coming out any day now in New Media & Society. (So watch this space too!)

July also brought about the publication of the special issue on Queer feminist media praxis, which I co-edited with Alex Juhasz and Kate O’Riordan in  Ada: A Journal of Gender, New Media, and Technology, No.5. And the launch of  SusNet – the CCN+ funded network which brings together feminist cultural production, art and activist practices and enables exchanges between different researchers, activists, artists and aims to contribute to knowledge exchanges across these areas and beyond.

 

So a lot of research activity and productive interactions this Autumn – but I’m also looking forward to teaching Media and Cultural Studies courses. This term I’m teaching the 101 course in Media and Cultural Studies with Adam Fish, and Critical Cultural Theory with Debra Ferreday. Good stuff!