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Tool, toy and tutor: Subjective experiences of digital Self-tracking

journal contribution
posted on 10.12.2018, 05:27 authored by Ben LyallBen Lyall, Brady Robards
(2018) Journal of Sociology 54(1)

Since the advent of the smartphone, users have become accustomed to alerts, notifications and reminders to interact with their internet-connected devices. But how do people make sense of prompts to exercise, eat or sleep? Digital self-tracking is a phenomenon that has grown substantially in recent years. However, despite some notable exceptions, there is still little sociological research into how users of wearable devices and apps subjectively experience self-tracking. This article draws on findings from a small qualitative study with 11 participants to reveal eminent themes in how users make sense of their self-tracking. Utilising and extending Lupton’s theorising of self-tracking, we argue for triple roles of self-tracking devices; ‘tool’, ‘toy’ and ‘tutor’. This trichotomy helps to characterise the use of self-tracking devices and apps, allowing us to reflect on the wider, ongoing implications of self-tracking.

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