Vital Materialism and the Thing-Power of Lively Digital Data
Chapter to be published in Social Theory, Health and Education, edited by Deana Leahy, Katie Fitzpatrick and Jan Wright, to be published by Routledge, London, Forthcoming
8 Pages Posted: 18 May 2018
Date Written: May 4, 2018
In this chapter, I take up the vital materialism perspective, particularly as it is used in political theorist Jane Bennett’s scholarship, to discuss the entanglements of digital data with humans and the work of sense-making. I emphasise the importance of understanding how digital data about human bodies work to generate new knowledges and the implications of this for how people learn about their bodies, including states of health and illness. To demonstrate how vital materialism can be applied to empirical research material as an analytical lens, I will use a vignette from my empirical research on people who use digital devices to engage in self-tracking of their bodies. I focus in my analysis on illustrating how vital materialist theory can provide insights into how and why people take up self-tracking practices for health-related purposes and how they learn from their data.
Keywords: digital data; vital materialism; thing-power; lively data; self-tracking; quantified self; vignette
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