Next week I am speaking about my ongoing work on self-tracking of exercise and work at the British Sociological Association Conference at Aston University in Birmingham.
I have recently published a post on self-tracking and management ideology which deals with some of the issues I will be discussing and I have outlined some of my thoughts on the broad connections between digital health and digital capitalism. My talk will build on previous assertions that self-tracking is contributing towards a conflation of work and exercise. This is a position I have developed further through discussions of self-tracking as the “healthicization” of everyday life and of “bitwalking”, an app which transforms exercise into bitcoins.
The title and abstract of my paper are below and I’ll be talking on Wednesday 6th April in the 15:30-17:00 session in Conference Centre Room 145:
The Rise of Digital Philanthrocapitalism and the Construction of Productive Bodies Through Digital Self-Tracking Devices and Corporate Wellness Programs
This paper will address the question: why do companies and organisations want us to be healthy? It will be argued that there is an increasing incitement to healthiness from companies and organisations. It will be proposed that companies have taken a new kind of biopolitical interest in the health of the population which is leading to a convergence between work and health, particularly in relation to exercise. Commercially available digital self-tracking devices (DST) and corporate wellness (CW) programmes using DST both represent a desire of corporations to produce ‘productive bodies’. DST form a socio-technical assemblage which enables companies to be seen to be improving the health of the population through encouraging higher levels of activity at the same time that they improve productivity. It will be argued that the commercial sale of DST and CW are brought together through their ethical concern for the health of the population. While both have commercial, economic interests in the incitement to health (the generation of data or a more productive workforce) this is merged with an ethical concern for the health of the population and a drive to ‘do good’ as part of social responsibility. The ethic of philanthrocapitalism is that capitalist mechanisms are the best way to achieve positive social outcomes. This dual concern with commerce and the improvement of health, enabled by the development of new digital tracking technologies is causing healthiness (and virtuousness) to become increasingly associated with ‘activity’ which is becoming the ‘general equivalent’ against which everything is judged.