Blog 18: Current impact and the future of self-tracking

Blog 18: Current impact and the future of self-tracking

Here, hear, last official blog entry for the course! We are wrapping up the last two chapters of Neff & Nafus’s Self-Tracking this week, and will move quickly into the end of the semester. It is hard to believe what we have covered in less than 16 weeks, plus the discussions we had in class and online (these blogs); I just wish there were more time for us to engage with emerging content as part of our journey in studying rhetoric, technology, and the internet.

In closing their book, Neff and Nafus made an explicit attempt to focus on the medical industry by discussing ways in which wearable technology and self-tracking affect the nature of the work and practice in medicine. Expectedly, the medical industry is one that is most immediately impacted by wearable devices as its history with technology traces back to implantables and bio-technology that may not necessarily have the ability to compute. With the popularizing of self-tracking devices for monitoring health and wellness, the whole rhetoric of health and medicine is brought to a new level of user-controlled, user-generated meaning of well-being that’s beyond what practitioners (doctors and care-providers) would imagine.

There are, of course, other industries that are directly influenced by wearable trackers, such as business, education, communications, and entertainment. As with the effects brought about by the invention of the internet, consumer wearable technology seems to set out to impact almost every part of our daily lives. Neff and Nafus certainly don’t have the space to discuss all of these in their pocket-sized reader. This also means that more needs to be said and published.

In their last chapter, Neff and Nafus, like Greengard, discuss the foreseeable future of self-tracking. They envision the need to amplify what we know and mean by “datafication”– the fight over the meanings of privacy, ownership, and data use. In fact, these fights are already underway. To improve our technologies we simple need to keep pressing on. What I see as more important across the board of innovation and technological change is the cultivation of digital literacy. It may sound pedantic that we need to educate users not just the what, where, and when of data collection/use, but also the how and why. To empower users is to give them the knowledge (to be literate) in maneuvering technology for their own purposes.

My research interest continues to revolve around such development of emerging literacy, and I am glad that we have been able to touch on a few of the topics I consider important in this semester.

To close, here are my final discussion questions:

  • Who should drive the future of technological change/innovation? Why?
  • How is technological change a social process?

Neff, G. & Nafus, D. (2016). Self-Tracking. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. [Chapters 5 & 6]


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