New project! Here’s our manifesto:

Next time you’re at the gym, at work, or on a train, look at the wrists of people around you, and you will find that more and more people are wearing fitness trackers these days. As a result, one’s number of daily steps, or the number of kilometers run during the weekend, are becoming popular topics for water cooler talks. More rare, however, are the people who use this technology, and busy themselves with the studies ‘behind the scenes’. Those who follow the literature on self-tracking, consent and trust in this self-tracking technology. Those who share thoughts on the psychological aspects of self-tracking and raise ethical concerns of personal data collection.

This is where the “Quantified Researchers” project comes into play. We are Iris and Elcin, two PhD researchers working on a shared project called ‘Mobile Health Behavior Change Support Systems’. Iris has a background in Philosophy and Ethics, while Elcin studied Social Psychology. We each focus on different aspects of the project, with a shared focus on behavior change apps and self-tracking technologies.

“You research self-trackers? But you are not wearing one? Why not?!”

Even though we have extensively researched this technology for 18 months, neither of us have ever worn a self-tracker. Our reasons for that differ – from not feeling the added value for our lifes, avoiding negative feedback, to feeling uncomfortable with the idea of tracking and sharing personal data. Recently, we’ve felt our motivations shift. We can’t tell you how many times people have asked us: “You research self-trackers? But you are not wearing one? Why not?!”

FAIR POINT. And honestly, our curiosity grows. Therefore, we decided to practice what we preach, so to speak. As researchers who try to be up-to-date on current literature on self-tracking, motivation, and the ethical questions involved, we will start wearing a fitness tracker and document our experiences. We will share these experiences with you, our reader.

We acknowledge the fact that we are inevitably biased; as the initial decision for purchasing the fitness tracker was different than that of many other users out there.

Why do most users of self-trackers stop using them after 6 months?

Not ignoring, but rather fully utilizing this bias, we want to document the experience of self-tracking, through the lens of our research expertise. We want to know how we are going to feel about the concept of self-tracking and the level of trust towards the technology over time. We want to know what will change in terms of our motivation and engagement with the device itself. We want to explore the relationship we develop with the device, to try to understand how this relationship develops and what kind of cues we attribute to the device. What will happen in terms of our self-awareness? And, crucially: why do most users of self-trackers stop using them after 6 months?

Can we find answers to all these questions? Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe more interesting questions will pop up along the way that we did not think of beforehand.

We will keep posting our experiences for at least 6 months. Every few weeks, one of us will publish a post on recent experiences and developments, right here on the blog. We will connect these experiences to themes in our research – to provide you with some additional insights.

Interested? Stay tuned for our first post, and subscribe!

Header: © Iris Loosman

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