The five modes of self-tracking

Deborah Lupton has posted a very useful item on her blog, attached to a forthcoming paper, suggesting five modes of self-tracking:

  • Private self-tracking
  • Pushed self-tracking
  • Communal self-tracking
  • Imposed self-tracking
  • Exploited self-tracking

You can read the full post here. The only one I’m not convinced of is ‘exploited self-tracking’. I otherwise really like this typology and it helps me clarify my own interest: what I’ve discussed as self-tracking and social control could be reframed helpfully as the interface between private self-tracking, pushed self-tracking and imposed self-tracking. These categories obviously blur at the edges but it’s only through identifying them that we can begin to gain purchase on the social dynamics underlying their transformation e.g. to what extent does private self-tracking and communal self-track normalise and contribute towards the expansion of pushed self-tracking and imposed self-tracking?

2 responses to “The five modes of self-tracking”

  1. The author obviously feels like the majority of modes of self-tracking are at the hands of some repressive big-brother. I submit at least one additional mode of self-tracking which is “willingly collaborative”. The specific example is in the relationship of a trusted doctor to a willing patient needing expert help.
    Secondly as to self-tracking I am in the thick of introducing a system of self-tracking which has a new acronym in healthcare called “PGHD” (patient generated health data), which our group pioneered in 2008 and is just now being recognized by HHS, the US government health agency as a logic/communication system built on structured language with simple protocols in a Q&A structure to deliver quantifiable answers.
    Important to note though as the “quantified self” and the “qualified self” both get their due in the process. In telephonic care coordination (not repressive…collaborative) within an otherwise unstructured conversation where the healthcare provider elicits concerns or difficulties in promoting their state of health. These specific structured language Q&A protocols most relevant to tracking the trends or sudden outliers of metric indicators from a distance by phone is valuable both to the practitioner, a concerned patient, and even 3rd party caregivers. The “algorithms” or protocols are not highly scientific creations, but the natural tools of humans such as more-less, scale-of-one-to-ten, weight yesterday to compare to today, did you take your pill?, are you sleeping well?
    In spite of the somewhat clumsy acronym of PGHD, the process mirrors what humans have done forever in a conversation which is not just first order logic of one simple question and that is all. Rather it is a process of branching logic which involves getting feedback from different angles which allow ever closer triangulations with specific questions and answers.
    This might not satisfy purists who champion either wing of the quantify-qualify duopoly. But what else changes in this structure is that depending on information gained in a phone session 1, can lead to very easy adaptation with new or altered Q&A protocols adaptive to the patient’s health state in session 2. For the metrics-obsessed, the process is a type of asymptotic iteration to approximate to a limit, and for the feel-good-obsessed both unstructured and more focused dialogue which would approximate a normal conversation in depth of two co-equals when both specifics and feelings are addressed.
    I hope I stake out a position that is as far removed from divisive or attacking the political-philosophical battlefield as possible, and to encourage people to work together for the common weal. It is possible if one is of good will, and not in attack mode.

  2. It’s ironic that your post ends with the patronising invocation that “it is possible if one is of good will” yet begins with a condescending dismal of a point of view you clearly spent little time trying to understand. Why not practice what you preach if you intend to lecture people about how to engage with the views of others?

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