This is episode #20 of the podcast and it’s Thursday, the 23rd of June, 2022. 

Today I sat down, virtually, of course, with Dr. Michael Mopas, Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario. He is cross-appointed to the Institute of Criminology and Criminal Justice and the Department of Law and Legal Studies, and serves as a member of the Duncombe Studio for Social and Cultural Research. Most of Michael’s work is in the area of science, technology, and law with a focus on 'sound'. In his spare time, he plays upright bass in several jazz bands in the city and participates in long-distance triathlons. He has completed two Ironman races (Lake Placid and Mont-Tremblant) and several other events.

In our discussion, we turned to wearable fitness-trackers and mobile apps that allow athletes to measure, monitor, visualize, and record a variety of training metrics. Dr. Mopas and his collaborators have looked into the deeply embodied and sensory dimensions of self-tracking. The overall insight seems to be that the data generated by self-trackers are not only cognitively processed, but also sensed and felt by users. While we do have some understanding of what exactly self-tracking devices measure and quantify, we know less about how/when do their users know these quantitative metrics work for them. How do we mitigate the potential dissonance between these quantitative metrics and the athletes’ lived experiences?

The second part of the discussion moved toward technology. We talked about the future of wearable self-tracking devices and debated if AI can be employed to better understand the emotional needs of the user.  Here is the show.

Show Notes:

- Do wearable tracking devices take too much of our ability of ‘being in the moment’?- Should we value quantitative metrics over other ways of knowing and making sense?- Moments of dissonance: self-tracking device’s quantitative metrics vs. the athletes’ lived experience- Sharing data (e.g., Strava): potential benefits and limitations- Technology: Can we develop AI that learns qualitative data that people input into such devices?

Note:

Relevant papers:

Mopas, Michael S., and Ekaterina Huybregts. "Training by feel: wearable fitness-trackers, endurance athletes, and the sensing of data." The Senses and Society 15.1 (2020): 25-40.

Lupton, Deborah, and Sarah Maslen. "The more-than-human sensorium: sensory engagements with digital self-tracking technologies." The Senses and Society 13.2 (2018): 190-202.

Link to Dr. Mopas’ web page: 

https://carleton.ca/socanth/people/mopas-michael/

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