Accepted paper:

Caring by numbers: why are companies making us healthy?


Christopher Till (Leeds Beckett University)

Paper short abstract:

The interest which companies are taking in health and wellness is creating a new philanthrocapitalism. Self-tracking devices and corporate wellness programmes using them help to conflate personal and corporate health with the means to achieve both seen as being predicated on the same principles.

Paper long abstract:

This paper will principally address the question: why are companies and organisations using self-tracking (ST) to try to make us healthier? More employers are using ST in corporate wellness (CW) programmes and commercial enterprises are increasingly pushing it as a route to better health. This paper will suggest that the interest which companies are taking in health and wellness is not reducible to the profit motive but is inseparable from it and is thus a form of philanthrocapitalism. The health of the individual and the health of the economy/organization are increasingly intertwined and the definition of health (through a focus on 'wellness') is being aligned with productive capacity to form a new corporate health ethic. Analysis of advertising materials from companies selling ST devices and of interviews with those implementing and using CW programmes will be presented. It will be suggested that these initiatives are predicated on an assumption that 'activity' and 'network connectivity' will improve productivity and wellness. Personal and corporate health are thus being conflated and private companies increasingly see it as part of their ethical responsibility to intervene in the everyday (non-work) life of individuals. Capitalist interests are thus integrated with the bodies of individuals and critiques of capitalism are countered through offering opportunities for autonomy, self-development and creative fulfilment by working on body projects. Moreover, consistent with the philanthrocpaitalist narrative ST enables the means of achieving better lives to increasingly be seen as those which also achieve greater profit.

panel T102
Everyday analytics: The politics and practices of self-monitoring