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Commodifying the Elite Athlete: Wearables, Data, and Winning

Sun, May 28, 11:00 to 12:15, Hilton San Diego Bayfront, Floor: 4, Sapphire 410A

Abstract

Driven by the quantified-self (QS) movement, wearable technologies have become a multi-billion dollar industry. Almost every professional sports team uses wearable devices to monitor players with the idea that every piece of data counts. This paper uses a critical cultural approach to explore how athletes transform from people with rights and identities to forms of human commodities. Humans’ innate fear the unknown causes them to rely on technology to harness what is outside of their control. During this process, information is privileged as knowledge and people become subjects of such knowledge eventually losing control over their own bodies. Surveillance technologies and governmentalities ensure resistance is silenced and people are normalized into a system that renders their bodies compliant and docile. The privatization of data further perpetuates a capitalist system built on bio-power and exchange value of commodities. Questions of who is responsible, ways to rectify the system, and implications for the future are also discussed.

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