Quantifying the body: monitoring and measuring health in the age of mHealth technologies

Deborah Lupton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

219 Citations (Scopus)
4 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Mobile and wearable digital devices and related Web 2.0 apps and social media tools offer new ways of monitoring, measuring and representing the human body. They are capable of producing detailed biometric data that may be collected by individuals and then shared with others. Health promoters, like many medical and public health professionals, have been eager to seize the opportunities they perceive for using what have been dubbed mHealth' (mobile health') technologies to promote the public's health. These technologies are also increasingly used by lay people outside the professional sphere of health promotion as part of voluntary self-tracking strategies (referred to by some as the quantified self'). In response to the overwhelmingly positive approach evident in the health promotion and self-tracking literature, this article adopts a critical sociological perspective to identify some of the social and cultural meanings of self-tracking practices via digital devices. Following an overview of the technologies currently available for such purposes, I move on to discuss how they may contribute to concepts of health, embodiment and identity. The discussion focuses particularly on how these technologies promote techno-utopian, enhancement and healthist discourses, and the privileging of the visual and metric in representing the body via these devices
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)393-403
Number of pages11
JournalCritical Public Health
Volume23
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2013

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Telemedicine
Social Media
Health Promotion
Technology
Equipment and Supplies
Health
Public Health
Biomedical Technology
Human Body

Cite this

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Quantifying the body: monitoring and measuring health in the age of mHealth technologies. / Lupton, Deborah.

In: Critical Public Health, Vol. 23, No. 4, 2013, p. 393-403.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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AB - Mobile and wearable digital devices and related Web 2.0 apps and social media tools offer new ways of monitoring, measuring and representing the human body. They are capable of producing detailed biometric data that may be collected by individuals and then shared with others. Health promoters, like many medical and public health professionals, have been eager to seize the opportunities they perceive for using what have been dubbed mHealth' (mobile health') technologies to promote the public's health. These technologies are also increasingly used by lay people outside the professional sphere of health promotion as part of voluntary self-tracking strategies (referred to by some as the quantified self'). In response to the overwhelmingly positive approach evident in the health promotion and self-tracking literature, this article adopts a critical sociological perspective to identify some of the social and cultural meanings of self-tracking practices via digital devices. Following an overview of the technologies currently available for such purposes, I move on to discuss how they may contribute to concepts of health, embodiment and identity. The discussion focuses particularly on how these technologies promote techno-utopian, enhancement and healthist discourses, and the privileging of the visual and metric in representing the body via these devices

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