Doing the Self: An Ethnographic Analysis of the Quantified Self

Self-quantifying technologies are becoming less ‘maverick’ and more ‘mundane’ by the day. Once, they were seen the preserve of a few ‘avant garde eccentrics’ in the Bay Area, but now Fitbits, heart rate straps and mood apps are part and parcel of daily life. But what is the effect of using these technologies? What is happening when technologies like these are being used to increase ‘knowledge’ about ourselves? Drawing upon a four year ethnography of the group known as the ‘Quantified Self’, I discuss how the use of technologies to track and measure the self changes the very nature of the self and its behaviours. I show how these technologies and the surrounding practices of self-quantification are not merely representing or recording the self, innocuously increasing knowledge about a pre-existing self, but are actively and continually complicit in producing the self as it is being measured and ‘entracted’.

Farzana is currently involved in research within the Digital Health team in HERG. She is part of the INQUIRE project team, trying to understand how online patient feedback and experiences may be used to improve the quality of NHS services. Her theoretical and methodological interests are in the field of Science and Technology Studies (STS), specifically theories of agency, performativity, multiplicity, and enactment, and qualitative methodologies such as ethnography.
Farzana has an undergraduate degree in Social and Political Sciences from the University of Cambridge and an MPhil in Innovation, Strategy, and Organisations from the Judge Business School, also at the University of Cambridge. She did her PhD at the University of Oxford at the Saïd Business School, and it involved a four year ethnography with the ‘Quantified Self’ to understand the ways in which self-monitoring and self-quantifying technologies are implicated in the ‘doing’ of the self.