12415 OL: How Equitable is the Quantified Self?

06/11/2015 @ 2:00 PM – 3:30 PM
The Orpheum A

Organizers: Victor Lee, Mary Briggs

Much popular press has been given to the Quantified Self movement – a label for both the increased ability to obtain and analyze personal data due to the explosion of consumer wearable devices and the accompanying online community that has emerged. The ideal represented by QS is a democratization of data. For instance, it is now possible for an individual involved in QS practices to know more about their health than their professional healthcare providers. In terms of media, this also represents a new space for exploration, as personal data become objects to be shared, discussed, and visualized. However, who is participating in Quantified Self activities, and is it equitable?

An earlier analysis we had conducted of online video archives from Quantified Self meetup groups suggests that participation is, like the Maker movement, heavily male (82.5%) and non-Hispanic white (84.1%). All participants were adults. As such, we were curious about how a Quantified Self experiences might look different with a group of a very different composition. Therefore, we attempted to seed a small Quantified Self group comprised of five Latina high school girls, provided them with wearable and other devices for their use, and provided technical support for data acquisition and analysis. We found that there were important circumstantial challenges that they faced as both youth and individuals from families with much lower income. In our presentation, we will discuss our experiences and lessons learned about both the Quantified Self and its scalability to non-dominant populations.

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