Accepted paper:

Imagining human-centric data futures: an analysis of the visual conventions of personal finance, health and integrated data management tools


Nina Janasik-Honkela (University of Helsinki)
Mika Pantzar (University of Helsinki )
Sari Yli-Kauhaluoma (Aalto University, School of Business)

Paper short abstract:

Recently, it has been claimed that humanity is moving towards a presentational mode of discourse. We analyze the visual conventions used in selected life management tools, and suggest that the imaged futures of these visualizations assume a human-centric and individualistic view of the data citizen.

Paper long abstract:

Recently, it has been claimed that humanity at large is moving from a representational mode of discourse toward a presentational one (Firat & Dholakia 2017). Whereas the former emphasized what is or has been observed, the latter emphasizes what is possible. Similarly, Beckert (2016) claims that the dynamics of capitalism is based more on future-oriented, creative imagination than on rational planning or expectation. From a consumer perspective, the methods and material aspects of various life management tools are living, inventive and performative (Beckert 2016). From a producer perspective, "technological projections" are discovery and innovation tools providing "fictive scripts that help motivate actors and mobilize resources to learn whether these scripts will come true" (Beckert 2016). A central part of such projections is formed by figures and visualizations, understood as "efficient and compact tools to co-constitute and anticipate horizontal vertical and temporal interlinkages" (Konrad 2006). Among the visualizations of life management tools, some depict complex interplays between new devices, technical components, apps, ideas, ideologies, skills and competences or "anticipatory assemblages" (Alvial-Palavicino 2011). In this paper, we analyze the visual conventions used in selected personal finance, health and integrative life management tools from the point of view of embedded meanings, syntactic symbols and implied use. Our analysis suggests that the imaged futures of the visualizations assume a) a general view of the human being as taking center stage (i.e., human-centric), and b) a particular individualistic view of the data citizen as control-oriented, suspicious (personal data, privacy), and insatiably hungry for information.

panel G05
Seeing with data and devices