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(In)Sensible Data: A Case Study of a Quantified-self Application for Employee Empowerment

Sat, September 2, 4:00 to 5:30pm, Sheraton Boston, Floor: 3, Exeter


The practices encouraged by the quantified-self are laden with the hope of empowerment. However, in monitoring the self in technologically mediated ways, this pledge is entangled with surveillance and processes of governance [1]. One context that highlights the empowerment-control dichotomy is when the ethos of the quantified-self is applied to worksite-wellness programs, as empowerment appears similar to historical modes of organizational control. An ethnographic case study of a quantified-self technology for worksite-wellness was conducted to investigate these dynamics. Data was collected in the tradition of ethnography, using an inductive approach for analysis. At the center of these findings is a conversation of biopolitics of the data-body [2]. As Ball [3] has described in her conception of “micro-struggles,” the body in surveillance networks offers a site to enact resistance. This begins by critiquing whose body is privileged, then confusing the categories affixed by the system. I attempt to expand this concept by charting micro-resistance. In particular, how fragmentation felt from surveillance was catalyst for introducing volatility into the surveillance-system as a form of gaining autonomy. Lastly, I introduce a concept of resistance that culminates in a queering of the “data-double” [4]. This research contributes to the conference theme regarding in/sensible data. From the perspective of the organization-as-client, the data generated by the quantified-self technology is insensible because it is outside normative data-bodies. On the other hand, this data is sensible because it offers an opportunity for employees to enact resistance to historical organizational control.


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