The human/wearable technology engagement and its embodied effects on self-trackers
People have for a long time engaged in activities to observe and monitor their physical functions. However, with the modern technological advancements, these practices have turned into a social phenomenon. In Sweden, self-tracking has been given a broad understanding by being introduced as one of several activities of biohacking; an approach of hacking one’s body for selfimprovement. As people increasingly engage with wearables to alter and improve their bodies, it becomes imperative to investigate the impact of such practices and technologies on experiences. Much of the previous self-tracking literature derives from a governmentality perspective, framing devices as a medium for surveillance and users as subjects to self-regulation. This does not acknowledge the particular agency of the technology and its effects. Although the human/technology relation is well discussed theoretically, in-depth empirical investigations of the self-tracking interrelation are rare, especially from a Swedish context. With an exploratory approach and a material semiotics/embodiment framework, the current study aims to explore and shed light on the interaction between Swedish people committedly involved in self-tracking for improvement and their consistently worn apparatuses, as well as the impact of this interaction on themselves. More specifically: How do self-trackers and devices engage in the human/wearable technology relation and what are the embodied effects on self-trackers? Swedish self-trackers were recruited from interest groups online. 9 in-depth, semi-structured interviews were carried out and subsequently thematically analysed. The paper demonstrates the evolving process of simultaneous, reciprocal agency between individuals and their wearable technologies through three interdependent, chronological stages: the Precedent stage, the Familiarising stage and the Engagement – effect stage. This engagement is a fully embodied experience with behavioural, cognitive, affective, and corporeal impact on individuals’ understanding of themselves, their bodies and their technologies. By combining two diverse theoretical fields of subjective and objective bodies, it is shown how an Objective self is internalised into the user’s lived body as a heightened Awareness. By tentatively introducing the concept of the Transitional body, the paper demonstrates how bodies constantly recreate themselves and dynamically transition in-between and across boundaries through negotiation, rather than existing permanently on one side. Thus, this work contributes to the discussion of the intertwined relationship between human and technology in a world where wearables are moving increasingly closer to our skin and beyond.