Everyday analytics and the politics of the behavioral
(University of Helsinki)
Paper short abstract:
This paper outlines politics of life promoted by self-tracking practices and the analysis of datafied patterns of everyday life.
Paper long abstract:
Tracking practices aim at understanding and influencing people's behavior, including sleeping, shopping, interacting in social media, walking, or eating. In terms of politics of life, 'the behavioral' opens a much messier life field than 'the molecular', for instance. Disciplines, including behavioral economics, social psychology, anthropology, and public health, focus on behavioral aspects of people's lives, although with very different models and expectations of how life is lived as a society. Moreover, assumptions about behavioral modification are made in fields, such as service design, human computer interaction, or social physics. Consequently, the realm of 'the behavioral' is a field of complementary approaches, tensions and debates, promoting a complex politics of life that have to do with how life should be valued, managed and modified, if at all. In light of our empirical work on various kinds of tracking practices, the field of everyday analytics suggests and supports a plethora of political aims and intentions. People practice voluntary self-tracking, but tracking practices are also implemented in different social contexts and institutions including insurance companies, factories, schools, work places and health care facilities. Each setting and context proposes its own ways of working with, and building on, personal data. By unpacking current data practices and the roles given to self, or data subjects, the paper addresses the most clearly observable and dominant features of politics of everyday analytics, but also proposes alternative directions for politics of 'the behavioral'.
Everyday analytics: The politics and practices of self-monitoring