Accepted paper:

Seeing the self through data


Dorthe Kristensen (University of Southern Denmark)

Paper short abstract:

The aim of the paper is to discuss how we theoretically can capture processes of the self in practices of self-tracking. The focus is on the tension between being "in control" and an embodied feeling of being "in contact with oneself".

Paper long abstract:

This paper will discuss how self trackers think and communicate through data output. The paper takes point of departure in self-tracking among fitness users. More specifically the paper will explores the concrete processes through which given subjects mediate their "potential" self through data practices . The paper furthermore focuses on the role of "data mediators", data coaches and personal trainers that use data visualization to communicate and keep track of their clients.

Many self-trackers focus on data as instrumental at the beginning of their self-tracking seeking a specific goal, for instance to lose weight, running at a certain speed etc. In many cases self-trackers acknowledge that quantification and goal-setting can provide visibility of certain aspect of the self, and by so doing can provide a frame for action. As a consequence however other central aspects of human life are hidden - they become invisible. Seeing and interacting with data consequently becomes a starting point for reflecting upon human value through reflecting on visibility and invisibility in data output. In this context a tension might also emerge between self tracking and bodily experiences - this is articulated as a tension between being "in control" through focusing on data output and an embodied feeling of being "in contact with one-self".

panel G05
Seeing with data and devices