Self-Tracking Modes: Reflexive Self-Monitoring and Data Practices

19 Pages Posted: 21 Aug 2014

See all articles by Deborah Lupton

Deborah Lupton

University of New South Wales (UNSW) - Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences

Date Written: August 19, 2014


The concept of ‘self-tracking’ (also referred to as life-logging, the quantified self, personal analytics and personal informatics) has recently begun to emerge in discussions of ways in which people can voluntarily monitor and record specific features of their lives, often using digital technologies. There is evidence that the personal data that are derived from individuals engaging in such reflexive self-monitoring are now beginning to be used by actors, agencies and organisations beyond the personal and privatised realm. Self-tracking rationales and sites are proliferating as part of a ‘function creep’ of the technology and ethos of self-tracking. The detail offered by these data on individuals and the growing commodification and commercial value of digital data have led government, managerial and commercial enterprises to explore ways of appropriating self-tracking for their own purposes. In some contexts people are encouraged, ‘nudged’, obliged or coerced into using digital devices to produce personal data which are then used by others. This paper examines these issues, outlining five modes of self-tracking that have emerged: private, communal, pushed, imposed and exploited. The analysis draws upon theoretical perspectives on concepts of selfhood, citizenship, biopolitics and data practices and assemblages in discussing the wider sociocultural implications of the emergence and development of these modes of self-tracking.

Keywords: self-tracking,quantified self, personal informatics, critical theory, sociology, big data, data politics

Suggested Citation

Lupton, Deborah, Self-Tracking Modes: Reflexive Self-Monitoring and Data Practices (August 19, 2014). Available at SSRN: or

Deborah Lupton (Contact Author)

University of New South Wales (UNSW) - Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences ( email )


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