Report from 4S in Denver:
In a session “The Reflexive Turn in Art and Science Studies: Art and Science 1: Power Relations in Art and Science Studies: Methods of Analysis” (long title, right?), Paula Gardner (OCAD University) gave a fascinating talk about smart fitness infrastructure titled “Pull, Process, Print: Aesthetic Interventions in Biodata.”
Gardner talked about the, for lack of a better phrase for me as a sociologist, the McDonaldization (or rationalization) of personal activity and the tracking of voluntary self-care activities such as step-counting with pedometers, distances-estimates for biking, calorie-burning for running, and so on. Think: any infrastructure for health as manifested in stuff like Fitbit.
Topics discussed included data fetichism, that data are not raw but always appear already processed for the user, that they assume a base-line, for example, size or step, that we are quantifying the self ourselves, that it is important for us to compare one another in this fitness architecture, that our activity levels may be used against us at work where we need to appear like active and productive employees (or else), and that there may be forms of “interference” (among other things) that these trackers impose upon our lives, our work-outs, and our health that are yet unknown. In all, a fascinating piece.