Tag Archives: fitbit

Thinking about self-tracking, wearables & biopedagogy

fitbitDelighted that the article I wrote with Kate O’Riordan (as part of our EU-funded EPINET project) on wearable sensors and fitness tracking has now just been published online in the academic journal Health Sociology Review  here. It is part of a special issue on self-tracking, edited by Deborah Lupton, and I can’t wait to read the cutting edge work of other colleagues in this same volume. The article is called ‘Training to self-care: fitness tracking, biopedagogy and the healthy consumer’ and it is  based on research around Fitbit, a wearable sensor device, through two complementary analytical approaches: auto-ethnography and media analysis. Drawing on the concept of biopedagogy, which describes the processes of learning and training bodies how to live, we focus on how users learn to self-care with wearable technologies through a series of micropractices that involve processes of mediation and the sharing of their own data via social networking. Our discussion is oriented towards four areas of analysis: data subjectivity and sociality; making meaning; time and productivity and brand identity. We articulate how these micropractices of knowing one’s body regulate the contemporary ‘fit’ and healthy subject, and mediate expertise about health, behaviour and data subjectivity.

You can download the article here http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/14461242.2016.1184582

Where next in Digital culture & communication?

c20d3e7877Back from the festive Salzburg, where I co-organised the workshop of the Digital Culture and Communication section of ECREA, with the Department of Communication Studies, Center for ICT&S, University of Salzburg & partnered with the Centre for Research on Media Innovations (CeRMI) at the University of Oslo. Although initially I was sceptical about the theme Standards, Values and Disruptions, and had difficulty finding its relevance to my research, it turned out to be a good provocation – not only for me, but also for many of the participants. The workshop was a cosy two-days, with low key discussions and a few more challenging ones.

I enjoyed Helen Kennedy’s (University of Sheffield) keynote talk on Wednesday; she gave an overview of data visualisation initiatives (including hers and her colleagues’). When she mentioned interviewing people in businesses about their obsession with numbers and quantification, I couldn’t help thinking about my own auto-ethnographic experience using Fitbit – where my obsession and fetishisation of numbers and of diagrams hit an unfamiliar, to me, high. I write about this in detail in my peer-reviewed article ‘Training to self-care: Fitness tracking, biopedagogy and the healthy consumer’ (with Kate O’Riordan, under review at the moment). Helen linked numbers and quantification to proof of success; in my work, I link it to proof of my productivity, and drawing from Melissa Gregg’s key work, to a characteristic anxiety with productivity of the middle classes – particularly the academic middle class worker.

Helen also showed some examples of Stefanie Posavec’s creative work with data, which reminded me about how data means many different things to people and, like all things, they can be good, bad, ugly or beautiful.

The workshop was a good place to re-visit the scope of the Section. As Vice Chair of the Section, it was reassuring to hear the opinions of our Section members during the business meeting. It is true that social media is a thematic that pertains many ECREA sections (see for example the excellent Political Agency in the Digital Age workshop organised by the Communication & Democracy Section), and it is not a cutting edge development any more. So I agree with many who stated that the Section should maintain its cutting edge focus – currently around datafication & society – while at the same time maintaining its critical stance to all things that relate to digital culture and communication.

Looking forward to the next ECREA in Prague in November 2016!

Talk at OpenLab today

The Art Department Chair Jennifer Parker and UCSC OpenLab invited me to give a talk today about my work on the current landscape of wearable sensors and digital culture. I presented a media analysis of FitBit, a cloud-based fitness tracking device, and discussed emerging self-management behaviours.


Wednesday, February 19, 2014 – 2:00pm – 3:00pm



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Fotopoulou_OpenLab.pdf 84.79 KB

Research Seminar MFM Sussex – ‘Climbing Gotzilla: Apps, sensors and all these data’

The fortnightly Media faculty-led Research Seminar will be taking place this Wednesday 23rd October at 4pm in G22, Jubilee Building, University of Sussex.

Details are as follows:

Dr Aristea Fotopoulou: ‘Climbing Gotzilla: Apps, sensors and all these data’

As a health-related, cloud-based consumer electronics device, FitBit monitors a small range of activities linked to weight loss and fitness activity. In this presentation, I focus on how the user interface (device screen, phone app and website) emphasises the gaming and social networking dimensions of the object, with badges and regular encouraging messages to the user, such as ‘Love Ya!’. Through this analysis I locate tracking sensors alongside the technoscientific visions that circulate in digital culture, and critically discuss emerging self-management behaviours.

Dr Aristea Fotopoulou is postdoctoral Research Fellow based at the University of Sussex working at the intersections of media & cultural studies with science & technologies studies. She currently works on EPINET(EC FP7) in a media analysis of emerging technologies, and also explores practices of data sharing and algorithmic living (Project Tracking biodata: sharing and ownership, RCUK Digital Economy NEMODE), and also is engaged in SusNet, a digital platform of feminist cultural production, art and activism. 

This Seminar is organised jointly with the Centre for Material Digital Culture and Digital Humanities (MDCDH) University of Sussex.

Chair: David M. Berry

This paper presents work that has received funding from the European Community’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007–2013) under the grant EPINET Integrated Assessment of Societal Impacts of Emerging Science and Technology from within Epistemic Networks; and by RCUK Digital Economy NEMODE Tracking biodata: Sharing and ownership.