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Societies 2014, 4(3), 446-462; doi:10.3390/soc4030446

Exercise as Labour: Quantified Self and the Transformation of Exercise into Labour

School of Social, Psychological and Communication Sciences, Leeds Metropolitan University, Room 914, Calverley Building, Portland Way, Leeds, LS1 3HE, UK
Received: 17 March 2014 / Revised: 21 August 2014 / Accepted: 25 August 2014 / Published: 28 August 2014
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Abstract

The recent increase in the use of digital self-tracking devices has given rise to a range of relations to the self often discussed as quantified self (QS). In popular and academic discourse, this development has been discussed variously as a form of narcissistic self-involvement, an advanced expression of panoptical self-surveillance and a potential new dawn for e-health. This article proposes a previously un-theorised consequence of this large-scale observation and analysis of human behaviour; that exercise activity is in the process of being reconfigured as labour. QS will be briefly introduced, and reflected on, subsequently considering some of its key aspects in relation to how these have so far been interpreted and analysed in academic literature. Secondly, the analysis of scholars of “digital labour” and “immaterial labour” will be considered, which will be discussed in relation to what its analysis of the transformations of work in contemporary advanced capitalism can offer to an interpretation of the promotion and management of the self-tracking of exercise activities. Building on this analysis, it will be proposed that a thermodynamic model of the exploitation of potential energy underlies the interest that corporations have shown in self-tracking and that “gamification” and the promotion of an entrepreneurial selfhood is the ideological frame that informs the strategy through which labour value is extracted without payment. Finally, the potential theoretical and political consequences of these insights will be considered. View Full-Text
Keywords: digital health; digital technologies; health and illness; self-tracking; quantified self; labour digital health; digital technologies; health and illness; self-tracking; quantified self; labour
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 3.0).

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Till, C. Exercise as Labour: Quantified Self and the Transformation of Exercise into Labour. Societies 2014, 4, 446-462.

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