“How many steps have you done today?”

Researching fitness trackers in everyday life.

Amalina Zakariah | PhD Student (3rd Year) | Royal Holloway School of Business and Management

As the title suggests, my PhD research looks into the consumption of self-tracking technologies (i.e. wearables, fitness trackers) in everyday lives. Some popular examples include, smart wristbands like the Apple Watch, Fitbit and Garmin, fashion accessories like the Oura Ring, as well as mobile applications such as BeFit. Existing literature have largely studied self-tracking practices from a medical perspective, focusing on bodies at risks (Lanseng and Andreassen, 2007). However, the motivations for engaging with the technology are shifting towards achieving a hedonic experience (Till, 2014; Parviainen, 2016). Consumers of self-tracking technologies voluntarily integrate various types of tracking device in their day-to-day lives to enforce the sense of control over their lives (Lupton, 2016). My goal is to understand how consumers engage with and integrate their self-tracking devices into their everyday lives.

When I came to London, I started wearing a FitBit Charge 2 and became quite fascinated with the numbers shown on my wrist. Despite having no particular goals set for myself, I was easily drawn towards achieving that 10k mark. Perhaps because it was simply achievable with my new London-routine. On a regular day traveling to Egham from London, I would normally walk between 7-9km (10k – 12k steps) anyway, but when I see my step count on the FitBit, I feel quite happy with myself and a little proud.  From just a glance on the Jubilee line, I could see that almost every other person in the cabin wears some kind of self-tracking device. I expect that there are very diverse reasons and motivations for these individuals living in London to engage with self-tracking technologies and how different the practices around these technologies might be based on the different roles and routines these individuals perform.

From reading and writing about self-tracking practices for my PhD, I am now talking and walking with my research participants in London.  If you would like to walk and talk with me, please do contact me (see below).

Lanseng, E. J. and Andreassen, T. W. (2007) ‘Electronic healthcare: A study of people’s readiness and attitude toward performing self-diagnosis’, International Journal of Service Industry Management. doi: 10.1108/09564230710778155.

Lupton, D. (2016) ‘Towards critical digital health studies: Reflections on two decades of research in health and the way forward’, Health (United Kingdom). doi: 10.1177/1363459315611940.

Parviainen, J. (2016) ‘Quantified bodies in the checking loop: Analyzing the choreographies of biomonitoring and generating big data’, Human Technology: An Interdisciplinary Journal on Humans in ICT Environments, 12(1), pp. 56–73. doi: 10.17011/ht/urn.201605192620.

Till, C. (2014) ‘Exercise as Labour: Quantified Self and the Transformation of Exercise into Labour’, Societies. doi: 10.3390/soc4030446.

Credit: Photo by Pixabay


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