by MINNA RUCKENSTEIN, University of Helsinki
It is easy to become pessimistic, if not dystopic, about tracking technologies. The current digital services landscape promotes scoring, selecting and sorting of people for the purposes of maximizing profit. Machine logics rely on profiling characteristics and predicting actions, and management by algorithms appears to be disproportionately affecting those with temporary and low-income jobs. Tracking technologies become complicit in deepening and accelerating social divisions and inequalities. The most vulnerable in societies have no say in how their actions are monitored and lives are harmed by algorithmically produced metrics.
In this context, Quantified Self (QS) – an international community of ‘self-trackers’ that shares insights gained through self-quantification and data analysis – seems rarified, an example of the privileged techno-elite positioned to use tracking data to pursue their own values and goals. With this limitation, QS hardly appears to be a useful prism...
A wide range of new digital products lumped together under the category of ‘Wearables’ or ‘Wearable Technology’ raises fundamental questions about the way we think about our individual bodies and the species Homo Sapiens. This paper traces three different relationships to what are called the ‘wearables’ and extends the notion to cover all material technologies that mediate our relations between various embodied practices and the world, and beyond pure ‘hi tech’ products. Therefore, this paper develops a general cultural approach to wearables, informed by empirical examples from the US and China, and ends by mapping valuable design spaces for the next generation of digital technologies that are getting closer to our bodies and our skin, even venturing beneath it....
Xerox Research Centre India, Bengaluru
Xerox Research Centre India, Bengaluru
Xerox Research Centre India, Bengaluru
The paper attempts to offer a method to consistently monitor and capture a data eco-system in the everyday of a patient-caregiver relationship. We offer an account of the capture and intermeshing of different types and quality of data sources and their gainful deflection into a methodological protocol for ethnographic engagements. We call this the ‘360° feedback’ ethnography and elaborate its underlying methodological process in this paper. Building on the live feedback obtained from various stakeholder activities in a care ecosystem, we propose how a 360° feedback can enrich regenerative knowledge....
The EPIC community has been wrestling with ways to integrate quantitative and qualitative methods in light of the increasing role that digital data plays in business practices. Some focus on methodological issues (digital data as method), while others point to the consumer value in data products (data as thing in the world). This paper argues that “digital data as method” and “digital data as thing in the world” are becoming increasingly intertwined. We are not merely witnessing ethnographers’ haulting embrace of digital data, but a wider process of the domestication of data, in which we, alongside the people we study, are participants. The domestication of data involves everyday situations in which ordinary people develop their own sense-making methods—methods remarkably similar to ethnographic knowledge production. In this way, the domestication process tightens the connection between data as thing in the world and data as method. I argue that seeing the interconnection gives us the...
by DAWN NAFUS, Intel Corporation
*Join Dawn Nafus on September 1 when she hosts Ethnography & Quantified Self at EPIC2016.
A few years ago, a colleague had asked me about the adoptability of biosensors—a rapidly evolving category of sensors that detect an ever-expanding array of stuff about the body or the environment. Water quality, air quality, hormones, temperature, microbiomes are increasingly possible to measure with consumer-grade devices and services. He had seen how medical sensing technologies had become smaller and cheaper, increasingly reworked into consumer devices for use outside of clinical settings. How much appetite would there be for an expanded reperotoire of data in ordinary people’s hands? Is that appetite really a consumer one, or one that was more likely to come into play in institutional contexts like biomedical research or technology-delivered healthcare?
These were complicated social and cultural questions, made even more complicated by the fact that, at the time, there were really only limited...
by DAWN NAFUS, Intel
There has been a good deal of discussion of the relationship between the EPIC community and new practices of big data. Will the data scientists have the final word on what people value? Are we ethnographers effectively getting disrupted by cheaper and worse data? In a wider sense, what kind of a culture would we live in when stories of lived experience get increasingly sidestepped in favor of a newly re-empowered aggregate? Story would surely still matter, but the population of people in any position to tell stories with data would narrow drastically. This is not an inevitability, of course, and members of the EPIC community have written about reclaiming quantification in various ways (above, also contributions from Neal Patel and yours truly here).
It turns out we are not the only ones asking these larger questions. The Quantified Self community is too, albeit for different reasons. I began my research in quantified self, admittedly, because the name alone suggested some of my worst fears about what technology...
by JAMIE SHERMAN, Intel Corporation
For many anthropologists and ethnographers—and particularly those of us based in the US, where the self and its adherent freedoms and choices have long been a core cultural construct—the self is frequently at the center of our studies. Indeed we are often in a privileged position from which to critique and dismantle notions of self that are too easy, too pat, too unified. But increasing penetration of data into the domain of the “personal” and to the management and care of the self suggest that something is afoot in how the self is understood, experienced, and practiced more broadly. As an anthropologist working for a technology company, understanding this shift becomes important as we design for a world in which data plays new roles and gains different valences than it once had. While the future remains an open question, social science theory helps ground present uncertainties in historical trajectories and suggests key directions for research and design that intersect these changes.
BRITTANY FIORE-SILFVAST and GINA NEFF
Data as a discursive concept in and around data-intensive health and wellness communities evokes multiple social values and social lives for data. Drawing on two years of qualitative, ethnographic observations, participation, and interviews in these communities, our work explores the gap between discourses of data, the practices with and around data, and the contexts in which data “live.” Across the communities of technology designers, “e-health” providers and advocates, and users of health and wellness data, we find that tensions emerge not around the meaning or legitimacy of particular data points, but rather around how data is expected to perform socially, organizationally and institutionally, what we term data valences. Our paper identifies data valences in health and wellness data, shows how these valences are mediated, and demonstrates that distinct data valences are more apparent in the interstitial interactions occurring in the spaces between institutions or among powerful stakeholder...
KNOWL BAEK, KYLE DUKE, ROY LUO, MONICA LEE and ANIJO MATHEW
This paper illustrates how the concept of “Human API” can help cancer post-treatment cancer patients with challenges they face once they are released from the hospital. The results and implications of this semester long graduate project will help illuminate how the Human API through its various data collection methods could potentially play a larger role in extended cancer care. The research will also attempt to determine if hyper-connected networks of individual patients could become effective sources of information for health institutions to engage and connect with patients after treatment or surgery....
We produce vast amounts of data in our daily lives. Email, text, search, check-in, photos, payments – all these activities create a trail of digital exhaust. This personal data has been triumphantly declared a “new asset class” by the WEF, compared to oil as the world’s newest economic resource, and sparked a big data race to gather it. This paper argues that this gold rush can obscure the real value of personal data by forgetting a fundamental rule of innovation: start with the person. The paper draws on global ethnographic research with data-driven individuals, experts, and start-ups to address five common misconceptions about personal data. It concludes with a set of simple principles and business case examples to bring a human-centred, small data perspective to life....