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Author:Noel B. Salazar (KU Leuven)
Paper short abstract:
In this paper, I disentangle why, paradoxically, mobile technologies such as GPS sports watches seem to make exemplary mobile citizens more immobile, because people spend many hours behind electronic device screens to communicate (and seek social approval for) their mobile performances.
Paper long abstract:
Historically, recreational sports such as running arose partially with the aim of controlling the side effects of a 'seated' life, i.e. obesity and physical inactivity. This trend developed already in the 19th century, with the emergence of middle classes who had the requisite time and resources. Recreational running became very popular in the 1970s, within the context of renewed societal attention to fitness and physical health, which developed in countries such as the USA and New Zealand and spread quickly to other industrialized nations. Regular physical activities such as recreational running can be conceived of as technologies of the self, practices that are used to transform oneself (in multiple and, at times, contradictory ways). However, they do not necessarily free an individual from the domination of disciplinary ideologies. Based on (auto)ethnographic research, I discuss in this paper the crucial role that mobile tracking devices, as markers of an everyday active lifestyle, play in this process. I focus on how the data generated by GPS sports watches and the like are widely shared by amateur runners and their 'followers' on general as well as specialized social media platforms. I disentangle why, paradoxically, these technologies seem to make exemplary mobile citizens more immobile, because many hours are spent behind electronic device screens to communicate (and seeking social approval for) their mobile performances. I place my critical anthropological analysis within the context of wider societal trends related to neoliberal self-discipline and self-control of everyday life.
Everyday mobilities and circulation of people, things and ideas: Expanding the concept of technology from what makes us mobile [ANTHROMOB]