Tracking towards care: Relational affordances of self-tracking in gym culture

Dorthe Brogård Kristensen*, Alev Kuruoglu, Signe Banke

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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In the past few years, self-tracking technologies have been celebrated for the possibilities they offer to ‘optimize’ fitness and wellbeing, yet also criticized for being rigid and isolating. In this article, we identify complex tracking arrangements that consist of a variety of data and multiple modalities of tracking emplaced within arrangements of actors and objects (digital/analog tracking devices and data output). We inquire into how these arrangements afford care. Based on our ethnographic research of gym culture in Denmark, we find that individuals make the technologies ‘work’ for them in ways that shield them from bodily or emotional distress. Fitness practitioners combine digital tracking technologies with analog methods and enrol other human actors in recording, interpreting, questioning and tinkering with their data; in other words, they perform data work in ways that mend or prevent ruptures and brokenness and thus afford ‘care’. We highlight the role of the personal trainer, who often complements or salvages the outputs of digital technologies. We argue that tracking has the capacity to afford care and wellness when it is emplaced within socialities and when actors are able to exercise their capacities and knowledge in ways that mitigate the data outputs.

Original languageEnglish
JournalSociology of Health and Illness
Issue number7
Pages (from-to)1598-1613
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2021


  • Self-tracking
  • analog tracking
  • care
  • fitness trainer
  • gym culture
  • responsibility
  • technologies


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