Probing the Media Ecology of Self-Tracking Technologies

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingMeeting abstract (Book)

Abstract

Lately, a whole new array of affordable and personal technologies known as 'self-tracking' tools has surfaced. They enable users to track and monitor a broad array of parameters within their body and life over time, such as sleeping patterns, blood pressure, calorie intake, happiness, et cetera. These devices, marketed in the first instance for fitness and health purposes, mostly include wristbands, armbands or any other wearable artifact containing a sensor of sorts, that collects data; smartphone and online apps that make this data available to the user; and, "server side," logarithms and databases that store, parse, aggregate, analyze and present the gathered information in one or other way. Self-tracking tools are becoming more and more popular nowadays, with a worldwide community called 'The Quantified Self' at the helm of the emergent 'personal analytics' movement.

From scholars, too, the phenomenon is starting to receive attention, especially within Science and Technology Studies. Some here analyze self-tracking as just another instance of biopolitical disciplining, others see in it a glimmer of a future new, creative, empowering way of managing one's health and well-being. In between those two extremes, there are the more nuanced assessments of the activity, and it is with these that I wish to engage in this paper, to supplement them with a media-ecological take on the issue. Self-tracking may take up a position somewhere in between the technological, or better, technocratic imperative (Technopoly) and counteracting endeavors of civilian and creative (or artistic) empowerment. Moreover, highly interesting about these technologies is that not only they are "media ecologies" in themselves as described above, they also disclose in new ways various "media ecologies" that environ us, not just in a material sense - nutritional elements, hormones, cells, bacteria etc. - but also in an immaterial sense - cultural presuppositions about health, performance, efficiency and so on. In this way, we should scrutinize these new tools as communication media, and the accompanying self-tracking practices as potentially game-changing ways of making sense of the world.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Fifteenth Annual Convention of the Media Ecology Association - "Confronting Technopoly: Creativity and the Creative Industries in Global Perspective"
PublisherThe Media Ecology Association (MEA)
Publication statusPublished - 22 Jun 2014
Event15th Annual Convention of the Media Ecology Association: "Confronting Technopoly: Creativity and the Creative Industries in Global Perspective" - Toronto, Canada
Duration: 19 Jun 201422 Jun 2014

Conference

Conference15th Annual Convention of the Media Ecology Association: "Confronting Technopoly: Creativity and the Creative Industries in Global Perspective"
CountryCanada
CityToronto
Period19/06/1422/06/14

Keywords

  • self-tracking
  • media ecology
  • Neil Postman

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