New paper on infrastructuring digital health platforms

A new paper from the Tracking Ourselves? project is now available online. Our paper, Navigating standards, encouraging interconnections: infrastructuring digital health platforms has been published in Information, Communication & Society as part of a special issues on ‘Mapping new digital landscapes’.

The article argues for an understanding of digital health platforms as ‘infrastructures’. Engaging with seminal work of Susan Leigh Star, we emphasise the importance of looking at standards as part of infrastructure building, and the broader set of interconnections between different actors and materials within an infrastructure. The abstract is reproduced below. The whole article is available to read Open Access here.

Abstract: Apps, websites and networked devices now offer to help consumers produce, access and share health knowledge, precipitating social scientific concern over the consequences of these so-called digital health platforms. This paper makes a novel contribution to this literature, taking up a recent call from Plantin et al. to adopt an infrastructural lens in exploring platforms. It argues, through empirical analysis of digital health platforms of different sizes, ages and nationalities, that this conceptual tool is necessary to surface the work entailed in creating and sustaining digital health platforms. Additionally, we suggest that the social scientific literature on platforms – and initial efforts to explore their infrastructural qualities – frequently focus too strongly on the dominant technology companies. Instead, we emphasise the value of drawing emergent companies’ platforms into empirical purview through returning to some of the infrastructures literature that informs Plantin et al. – particularly Susan Leigh Star and colleagues. We demonstrate empirically the importance of looking at standards as part of infrastructure building, and the broader set of interconnections between different actors and materials within an infrastructure. In doing so, we demonstrate the value of an infrastructural lens for understanding the density of interconnections that characterise digital health and propose some orientating questions for further enquiry into the infrastructural qualities of platforms.

Project article among the top 10% most downloaded in SHI journal

We are pleased to hear that our paper ‘Thinking with care infrastructures: people, devices and home blood pressure monitoring‘ is among the top 10% most downloaded papers in the journal, Sociology of Health and Illness.

Journal image

The paper was the first paper to come from the project. In the paper, we argue that the use of self-monitoring devices may be understood as a shared practice that expresses care for self and for others. 

This achievement means that between January 2018 and December 2019, our paper received some of the most downloads in the 12 months following its online publication. It also means that our research findings generated immediate impact and supported the visibility of the journal. You can read our paper here.

New: Executive Summaries

As we come to a close with the Tracking Ourselves? project, we have put together some of the key research findings into easy-to-read documents that are available for you to download. These include:

Commercial Partners – This executive summary details the background to the project, methods and our key findings. In particular, it explores:

  • why people buy monitoring technologies;
  • what products and functions they look for;
  • the problems encountered within the home and at the clinic;
  • how industry can support healthy monitoring.
Tracking ourselves? team (2020) Tracking Ourselves? Executive Summary: Commerical Partners.

Everyday experiences of self-monitoring – this executive summary details the background to the project, methods and our key findings. In particular, it explores:

  • how people acquire a monitor;
  • the reasons people decide to self-monitor;
  • where people keep/store their monitoring devices;
  • the regularity of people’s monitoring;
  • who is involved in the self-monitoring process;
  • how people keep records of their monitoring;
  • what happens in the clinic.
Tracking Ourselves? team (2020) Tracking Ourselves? Executive Summary: Everyday Experiences of Self-Monitoring. 

Both of these summaries are available to download if you head over to our [resources] page. Please let us know what you think!

New paper on the everyday curation of record keeping in the practices of self-monitoring

Big Data and Society Journal logo

The latest output from the Tracking Ourselves? project is now available online as an article in the journal Big Data and Society, a publication that invites research debates about big data practices and how they are reshaping relations and ways of knowing. The paper is entitled ‘Everyday curation? Attending to data, records and record keeping in the practices of self-monitoring‘.

The article comes out of the second phase of our research, and looks specifically at the different ways in which people keep records of their self-monitoring. The analysis unpacks the relationships between taking a measure, and making and reviewing records. The paper argues that by paying attention to which data is recorded and the occasions when data is not recorded, as well as the ways data is recorded, it illuminates the diversity of ways in which self-monitoring data may or may not flow or contribute to big data sets.

Image of paper

The article is available to access by clicking here

Below, you can read an abstract of the paper: 

Abstract: This paper is concerned with everyday data practices, considering how people record data produced through self-monitoring. The analysis unpacks the relationships between taking a measure, and making and reviewing records. The paper is based on an interview study with people who monitor their blood pressure and/or body mass index/weight. Animated by discussions of ‘data power’ which are, in part, predicated on the flow and aggregation of data, we aim to extend important work concerning the everyday constitution of digital data. In the paper, we adopt and develop the idea of curation as a theory of attention. We introduce the idea of discerning work to characterise the skilful judgements people make about which readings they record, how readings are presented, and about the records they retain and those they discard. We suggest self-monitoring produces partial data, both in the sense that it embodies these judgements, and also because monitoring might be conducted intermittently. We also extend previous analyses by exploring the broad set of materials, digital and analogue, networked and not networked, involved in record keeping to consider the different ways these contributed to regulating attention to self-monitoring. By paying attention to which data is recorded and the occasions when data is not recorded, as well as the ways data is recorded, the research provides specificity to the different ways in which self-monitoring data may or may not flow or contribute to big data sets. We argue that ultimately our analysis contributes to nuancing our understanding of ‘data power’.

Launch of our ‘House of Tracking’ Interactive Web Tool

Together with web designers at 93ft.com, we have created an interactive web tool that showcases some of the key research findings and stories of self-monitoring in domestic life. The participants’ quotes and images are located around the home to demonstrate how self-monitoring is experienced across different spaces, at different times, alone, with others and how monitors find a place in everyday life. The tool draws attention to the links between devices and the spaces in which they are used, hidden and shared in domestic life. Please take a look and have a play on the tool, which you can access here. Don’t forget to let us know what you think!

This image has been produced by 93ft.com and is part of the https://tracking-ourselves-house-of-tracking.group.shef.ac.uk web design.

New Research Associate joins the Tracking Ourselves Team

Jacobcropped
Dr Jacob Andrews

After a busy year working on the project, we are sad to say goodbye to Dr Jacob Andrews, who has a new role in research at the University of Nottingham. We’d like to take this opportunity to say thank you to Jacob for all of his hard work on the Tracking Ourselves project, and wish him well in his new role.

Lauren White

We now welcome Lauren White as Research Associate on the project. Lauren has research experience in the field of the sociology of health and illness and the sociology of everyday life. She is particularly interested in the ways symptoms (and the monitoring of them) are negotiated in public and private spaces, and with socio-material relations.

4S 2019 Innovations, Interruptions, Regenerations: Society for the Social Studies of Science New Orleans

4S 2019 Innovations, Interruptions, Regenerations: Society for the Social Studies of Science held in New Orleans, USA. On the 7th September, Kate and Catherine presented their paper titled, ‘Relating with data: stories of self-monitoring with care‘. The full conference programme can be found here.

Left to Right: Catherine and Kate looking across the Mississippi River

The paper came from the project, drawing on qualitative research with individuals and couples engaged in monitoring Body Mass Index, weight or blood pressure in the UK with devices acquired independently of the clinic. Kate and Catherine reflected on the factors that disrupt or interrupt the anticipated flow of data from these practices towards the clinic or commercial digital health platforms, and shift the meaning of self-monitoring as a practice. In analysing narratives of care-full (and some care-less) negotiations of monitoring, the paper sought to complicate accounts of the dataification of health in everyday life and of the individual focus of self-monitoring, showing these technologies to be embedded in domestic life and relations with close others.