Accepted Paper:

Digital eating: exploring the contours of platformed food  

Authors:

Tanja Schneider (University of St. Gallen)
Karin Eli (University of Oxford)

Paper short abstract:

We consider how STS can contribute to studying emerging food practices that we describe as 'digital eating', i.e., eating practices enabled and maintained through digital technologies. We develop a conceptual framework for researching how digital eating is reshaping people's relationships with food.

Paper long abstract:

Digitalisation is changing how food is produced, distributed and consumed (Carolan, 2017; Lupton, forthcoming; Schneider et al., 2018). In this presentation, we consider how STS can contribute to studying emerging food consumption practices that we describe as 'digital eating', i.e., eating practices enabled and maintained through mobile, sensor-based and digital technologies. Examples include tracking food consumption through mobile apps, adopting a new diet through following blogs and vlogs, connecting with communities of like-minded eaters through social media and video-sharing sites. An investigation of digital eating is particularly timely as digital sources increasingly mediate how consumers seek, share and interpret food-related information. In the digital media landscape, boundaries between experts and laypeople are blurred, with consumers becoming vocal and influential contributors of information about food. Through digital platforms, then, both programmers and users/consumers/citizens are key mediators of the advice and mandate of official governing actors, such as states and international regulating agencies. Thus, the interactions between digital platforms and users hold the potential to reshape patterns of food consumption on a population-wide scale, with public health and food policy implications. To study emerging practices of digital eating, we turn to STS and the related fields of digital anthropology, sociology and Internet studies, for a critical review of how food-related digital engagements have been theorised and analysed. Based on this review, we identify promising approaches and methodologies, and develop a new conceptual framework for examining which kinds of food engagements digital eating makes possible, and for whom.

Panel C28
Meetings over and around food