Foucault News

News and resources on French thinker Michel Foucault (1926-1984)

Esmonde, K., Jette, S.
Assembling the ‘Fitbit subject’: A Foucauldian-sociomaterialist examination of social class, gender and self-surveillance on Fitbit community message boards
(2020) Health (United Kingdom), 24 (3), pp. 299-314.

DOI: 10.1177/1363459318800166

The rise of fitness-tracking devices such as the Fitbit in personal health and wellness is emblematic of the use of data-gathering health and fitness technologies by institutions to create a surveillance regime. Using postings on Fitbit community message boards and the theoretical frames of Michel Foucault and sociomaterialist scholars, the goal of this article is to analyse the experiences of those who choose to self-track using a Fitbit and the constellation of barriers and facilitators (human and non-human) related to social class and gender that enable and constrain one’s ability to use a Fitbit as intended. First, we examine the social class assumptions of Fitbit as a risk management tool in the workplace, illustrating what elements must come together – both human and non-human – to create an environment that enables walking throughout the workday to combat the risks of sedentary work. Second, we explore the ways that Fitbit users ‘confessed’ to their past inactivity and how gendered home labour differently enables and constrains some of the users’ abilities to act on their confessions. Ultimately, one’s ability to engage in the idealized use of the Fitbit in the minds of its users, or what we term the ‘Fitbit subject assemblage’, is structured by numerous material and social factors that must be taken into account when examining the mechanics of power in fitness tracking. © The Author(s) 2018.

Author Keywords
fitness tracking; Foucault; quantified self; sociomaterialisms; surveillance

Index Keywords
article, female, gender, human, human experiment, male, mechanics, risk management, social aspect, social class, walking, working time, workplace

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