In episode 3 of the Digital Health/Digital Capitalism podcast I spoke to Tamar Sharon and was spoke about her work on self-tracking and the move of digital companies (such as Google, Facebook and Apple) into health research.

Tamar mentioned Anne Marie Mol as one of her key influences and one of the central figures in “practical philosophy” (in the long-term derived from the work of John Dewey) which she found useful because it helps her work to move from the descriptive to normative

While talking to me Tamar mentioned a particular article a few times which she wrote with Dorien Zandbergen which had some really interesting findings and ethnographic insights. One of the most unexpected was how one of their research participants used self-tracking to monitor her grief and to challenge the socially prescriptive norms about how long it is acceptable to grieve for. Through this she was able to find her own way of dealing with the death of a relative.

During the episode Tamar argued against some of the prominent critiques of self-tracking which claim it is a manifestation of neoliberalism, in particular she refers to some of the work of the sociologist Deborah Lupton and the journalist and writer Evgeny Morozov.

One of the slightly stranger types of tracking Tamar discussed was a device which vibrates when the wearer is facing north which is part of what Tracking is about bringing an awareness

Tamar discussed some of her recent work which focuses on the political economy of digital health data where she offers an analysis of issues such as the impact of things such as Apple’s ResearchKit. Here is a list of the studies which are currently being conducted through the ResearchKit. She mentioned a really interesting case for data privacy when Google negotiated access to 1.6 million people’s health records, the Google Baseline project (which aims to produce the most detailed study of healthy people ever) in London and the commercial genome mapping company 23andMe. Tamar mentioned the concept of “datafication” developed by Jose van Dijk and the book No Such Thing as a Free Gift by Linsey McGoey.

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