Accepted paper:

"We're Not Interested in Robots": Self-Monitoring and Scientific Research


Tom Clarke (University of Leeds)

Paper short abstract:

Self-monitoring practices are increasingly used to record fitness activity. I consider the role self-monitoring plays in the work of exercise scientists, highlighting the multiple ways in which these practices are implicated in the work and leisure practices of the scientists themselves.

Paper long abstract:

Self-monitoring practices are increasingly ubiquitous, with apps and wearable devices that measure fitness practices being amongst the most popular. Furthermore, the implications of these practices regarding the blurring of the boundaries between work and leisure has been discussed (Till, 2014). However, scant attention has been paid to how these self-monitoring practices intersect with the working lives of bioscientists, particularly with regards to the (self) participation in experiments of scientists themselves. Drawing upon ethnographic field notes and interviews, I consider how bioscientists in one particular research team engage in self-monitoring practices via their participation in their own and each other's fitness-based research, and the role that this plays within their work as a collective. Drawing upon theories of prosumption and scientific practice, I discuss how self-monitoring is instrumental in this form of scientific practice, and explore how these practices interact with scientist's own fitness practices both inside and outside of the laboratory setting. I argue that self-monitoring practices play a key role in the constitution of scientific research untaken in the laboratory, but that they also form a means of engaging intimately with the outcomes of these research practices on a personal level. By considering the links between self-monitoring and everyday scientific practice, I highlight how self-monitoring practices and communities can be identified within established institutional settings in which the creation of data is implicated in everyday work.

Till, C., 2014. Exercise as labour: Quantified self and the transformation of exercise into labour. Societies, 4(3), pp.446-462.

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