Accepted Paper:

After science: Consumerist populism in the hype and controversy around the crowdfunded GoBe glucose/calorie monitor  


Paula Saukko (Loughborough University)

Paper short abstract:

Presentation on the hype and controversy around the crowdfunded GoBe wristband, allegedly measuring glucose/calories, discussing how backers were addressed as consumers and tech and consumer reviews became evidence. It is a case of erosion of scientific authority giving way to consumerist populism.

Paper long abstract:

This presentation discusses the recent hype and controversy over the GoBe wristband, which allegedly non-invasively measured glucose and translated it into calorie intake. The GoBe was not funded by research funders or investors but attracted a million dollars on the crowdfunding website IndieGoGo, its developers were Russian entrepreneurs and the evidence backing the device took the form of technology and consumer reviews. The presentation analyses the controversy as it folded in mainly the digital media. Two phases were identified. First, during the IndieGoGo campaign in 2014 the media, spearheaded by a technology website PandoDaily, accused GoBe of 'scamming' its backers. Throughout the backers were addressed and responded as such (on the backers' forum) as consumers, who had potentially bought a faulty future product. Second, after the launch of GoBe in 2015, technology and consumer websites filled with contradictory but generic reviews, which assessed the wearability and accuracy of the device (by comparing its measures with those of other calorie counting devices). The GoBe case illustrates the way in which the erosion of scientific authority has not resulted in greater democracy but California hype, underpinned by commercialist populism and exclusivism. The backers were not addressed or behave as co-innovators of the device but as consumers purchasing a future product. The contradictory tech and consumer reviews were written mainly by male geeks or fitness enthusiasts, evaluating the usefulness of the device for this narrow, affluent market, sounding a warning about drivers of medical innovation in this new commercial and digital configuration.

Panel T028
Futures in the making and re-making