Self-tracking as communication

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Self-tracking has attracted a lot of attention from researchers and public opinion makers owing to its potential for improving life conditions through preemptive action on health, and as a tool of user empowerment vis-à-vis health-care professionals and private and public institutions. Nevertheless, the ‘stuff’ that is typically tracked – exercise and diet being the dominant tracking activities – refers to cultural and social practices that, for the individual user, are utterly mundane and reside in an experiential realm of everyday life. Self-tracking has to be understood in relation to behavior that is predominantly about getting things done in ways that are possible, suitable and meaningful for the individual. To account for this, we propose to conceptualize self-tracking as a communicative phenomenon along three dimensions: communication with the system, the self and social networks of peers. We develop the theoretical framework, drawing upon empirical findings from a qualitative study on how self-tracking is practiced and experienced in the context of exercise by different categories of empirical users. We demonstrate that the meanings of self-tracking practices are, at once, shaped by the motivation of an individual user who is situated in a broader web of everyday activities, and stimulated and augmented by communicative features provided by the technology.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInformation, Communication & Society
Issue number7
Pages (from-to)1015-1027
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - 2016

    Research areas

  • Faculty of Humanities - self-tracking, mobile technology, communication theory, user studies, communication studies

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