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Technologies for Sharing: lessons from Quantified Self about the political economy of platforms

Quantified Self (QS) is a group that coordinates a global set of in-person meetings for sharing personal experiences and experiments with self-tracking behaviours, moods, and activities. Through participation in US-based QS events and watching online QS presentations from around the globe, we identify a function of ambiguous valuation for supporting sharing communities. Drawing on Stark’s (2011) theory of heterarchy, we argue that the social and technical platforms supporting sharing within the QS community allow for multiple, sometimes conflicting, sets of community and commercial values. Community cohesion benefits from ambiguity over which values set is most important to QS members. Ambiguity is promoted by sharing practices through at least two means, the narrative structure of members’ presentations, and what counts as tracking. By encouraging members to adhere to a three-question outline, the community ensures that multiple values are always present. Thus, it becomes a question of which values this sharing community emphasizes, not which value sets members present, at any given time. By leaving the tools and methods of tracking open − from sophisticated wearables and data analysis to pen-and-paper and storytelling − the community creates space for and embraces self-trackers with a broad spectrum of technological proficiency and interest. QS as a group capitalizes on circulation of knowledge valued somewhat ambiguously to sustain and grow the community, both encouraging and supporting the commercialization of self-tracking technologies while keeping technology developer interests from overwhelming community-building interests. This, we argue, has implications for researchers hoping to understand online communities and the ‘sharing economy’ more generally.

Kristen Barta & Gina Neff. (2015). Technologies for Sharing: lessons from Quantified Self about the political economy of platforms. Information, Communication & Society. DOI:10.1080/1369118X.2015.1118520

Will Data from Wearable Devices Help Doctors Get in Tune with Patients?

Here is a nice write up at the Intel Wearable Tech Blog about my collaborations with their research team on health data.  Intel Labs has supported my work on a project called “Organizational Adoption of and Adaptation to Patient Biosensor Data.”

Answering ‘how you’re doing’ may get the conversation started in the doctor’s office but what if your physician was well versed in your genetic makeup and had a diagnosis pretty in hand well before you arrived at the office? What’s keeping you from having a closer relationship with your doctor could be many things, or it might simply come down to good data. As more data becomes available through digitized health records and personal health monitoring or quantified self devices, it’s becoming clear that healthcare is one area of our lives that is grappling with benefits and challenges of new consumer technologies. In fact, you may hold more detailed health records on your mobile phone than what appears on a doctor’s chart, according to Gina Neff, an associate professor who runs the Project on Communication Technology and Organizational Practices at the University of Washington.


Continue reading on the Intel IQ Blog:


HealthFoo Ignite Talk: Let’s Flip the Chart

This ignite talk was prepared for HealthFoo 2013 in San Francisco, California, and is about the great variety of ways that “data” can be interpreted by the different participants in modern health care.

Twitter: ginasue