From data fetishism to quantifying selves: Self-tracking practices and the other values of data


This article foregrounds the ways in which members of the Quantified Self ascribe value and meaning to the data they generate in self-tracking practices. We argue that the widespread idea that what draws self-trackers to numerical data is its perceived power of truth and objectivity—a so-called “data fetishism”—is limiting. Using an ethnographic approach, we describe three ways in which self-trackers attribute meaning to their data-gathering practices which escape this data fetishist critique: self-tracking as a practice of mindfulness, as a means of resistance against social norms, and as a communicative and narrative aid. In light of this active engagement with data, we suggest that it makes more sense to view these practitioners as “quantifying selves.” We also suggest that such fine-grained accounts of the appeal that data can have, beyond its allure of objectivity, are necessary if we are to achieve a fuller understanding of Big Data culture

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Last time updated on 9/3/2017

This paper was published in NARCIS .

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