Dissertation Abstract

Dissertation Title: Knowing the Everyday: Wearable Technologies and the Informatic Domain

My dissertation is available to read Open Access via ProQuest. You may access it here.


 This dissertation investigates how wearable technologies have come to matter for a variety of individuals, companies, and governments in the decade from 2007-2017. In particular, this dissertation argues that these devices are part of larger efforts to capture, know, and quantify the mundane practices of everyday life through an array of computation-based technologies. In doing so, they implicitly suggest that everyday life is no longer defined by its traditional theoretical conceptions of a domain of “excess,” unknowability, and qualitative character. Through four different case studies that emphasize different elements of life and bodily activity, this dissertation analyzes how the interactions between technologies and bodies legitimate some forms of knowing—such as the supposed certainty of big data’s predictive analytics—at the expense of other forms of knowing—such as the memory-oriented “recall” of diary writing. Each chapter, though based on concerns of experience and routine, explores how power, control, and resistance manifest in the routines of everyday life, and how these devices are designed, implemented, and discussed in ways that encourage the transformation of living into analyzable information. In each of my case studies—the hearing aid (and in particular the Soundhawk smart hearing system), the fitness tracker (in particular Fitbit), the wearable camera (in particular GoPro), and the identification band (in particular Disney Magic Band)—I treat wearable technology as an idea. Looking at advertisements, online blogs, magazine features, interviews, popular culture texts, and other sites of discourse, I examine how different organizations have promoted or critiqued these technologies for different goals, explaining how wearable technology has served as a means for 1) generating knowledge about how people live, 2) turning that knowledge into information that can be automatically analyzed by algorithms and other computational programs, and 3) use information as the basis to arbitrate decisions on what constitutes a normal or productive way of living. In analyzing the relationships between technologies, cultural discourses, and everyday life, I argue that media studies should consider the ways in which such bodily technologies mediate the everyday, taken-for-granted experiences of environments and social relationships.

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