Author(s):

  • Elise Li Zheng

Abstract:

Fitness apps on mobile devices are gaining popularity, as more people are engaging in self-tracking activities to record their status of fitness and exercise routines. These technologies also evolved from simply recording steps and offering exercise suggestions to an integrated lifestyle guide for physical wellbeing, thus exemplify a new era of “quantified self” in the context of health as individual responsibility. There is a considerable amount of literature in science, technology and society (STS) studies looking at this phenomenon from different perspectives, linking it with the sociology of self-surveillance and neoliberal regimes of health. However, the human-technology interface, through which the micro- (behavioral) and macro- (social) aspects converge, still calls for extensive examination. This paper approaches this topic from the postphenomenological perspective, in combination with empirical studies of design analysis and interviews of fitness apps, to reveal the human-technology link between the design elements and people’s perception through the direct experiences and interpretations of technology. It argues that the intentionality of self-tracking fitness app designs mediates the human-technology relations by “guiding” people into a quantified knowledge regime. It shapes the perceptions of fitness and health with representations of meanings about a “good life” of individual success and management. This paper also gives a critique of current individual, performance-oriented fitness app designs and offers the possibility of seeking alternatives through the multistable nature of human-technology relations—how altering interpretation and meaning of the design with a cultural or social context could change the form of technological embodiment.

Documentation:

https://doi.org/10.1007/s00146-021-01146-8

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