For my first installation of On Being a Cyborg, I want to talk about a piece of technology that I’ve been using for a year now. Activity trackers are a popular type of wearable technology that can measure steps taken or general movement throughout the day. See this recent NY Times article for a guide to some of the newest ones. Combined with user data, these trackers calculate distance walked, calories burned, floors climbed, and activity duration and intensity. They pair with apps or websites to deliver you lots of data about your daily activity.
I personally use the Fitbit Flex, a bracelet that calculates my steps each day, tells me how many calories I’ve burned, and even my sleep patterns. With the accompanying app, I’ve been able to log workouts, calorie intake, and water intake to assess my own health on a broad-scale basis. I’ve also used the sleep tracker to recognize that I generally get an hour less sleep than time I’ve been sleeping, due to “restlessness” that the tracker picks up.
Fitbit and similar technology use gamification techniques to encourage us to be more aware of our fitness levels and active throughout the day. These technologies allow us to set our own goals and develop self-efficacy around fitness by enabling us to reach them. Constant feedback on progress and rewards push users to move more. I’ve set my goal “steps” to 10,000 each day, and my band has 5 lights that light up as I reach incremental goals throughout the day. Just seeing that I have 4,000 steps left to my goal will give me that extra push to walk home from school instead of taking the subway, and I’ve been known to pace around my apartment at 11:50pm to finish getting all of my steps before midnight.
increased awareness of our bodies and our place in the world…*
So how does this really relate to rethinked..* ? As Kate Hartman explains in The art of wearable communication, wearable devices focus on the ways in which we relate to ourselves. They enable an increased awareness of our bodies and our relationship to the world around us. As Hartman explains:
“…we’re in this era of communications and device proliferation, and it’s really tremendous and exciting and sexy, but I think what’s really important is thinking about how we can simultaneously maintain a sense of wonder and a sense of criticality about the tools that we use and the ways in which we relate to the world.”
Again, this brings the story back to the idea that the best kinds of technology will help us to be more human. Activity trackers can help us better understand ourselves, and in that, they help us to be better versions of ourselves. Do you use any sort of wearable technology? How has it impacted your life?