| 21.11.2022

Self-tracking technologies have the potential to alter harmful norms and structures

Self-tracking products and apps are expected to help consumers improve themselves, but new research suggests they can also be used to avoid and change structures such as harmful beauty standards or workplace conditions.

With the growing interest in well-being, self-tracking products and apps are becoming increasingly popular. Bracelets, watches, rings, and personal scales are examples of products that consumers are increasingly using to learn about their fitness, physical activity, stress level, sleep, and other physical and mental characteristics.

At the same time that data on individual well-being is becoming more readily available, more responsibility for well-being has been placed on the individual. The study stems from a societal shift in which solutions to societal, social, and structural problems are increasingly placed in individuals' morals, behavior, and competences.   

Hannu Tikkanen's thesis questions the individualization of responsibility for one's own well-being. While self-measurement technologies provide people with data and insights into how to improve themselves, this information is still linked to structures.

 “We are offered more and more advanced technologies to be able to measure, analyze and take control of our well-being. At the same time, we all live in environments where cultural norms and working conditions, for example, can have a significant impact on us. I focused my research on how the use of self-tracking technologies relates to these circumstances," says Tikkanen.

Tikkanen's thesis demonstrates how companies can view the role of products in a broader context, where they not only assist the user in developing, for example, stress tolerance or productivity, but also in understanding and acting in the environment in which the individual finds themself.

”Overall, my research suggests that self-tracking technologies can help consumers avoid and change harmful norms or social conditions. These technologies are at their best when they do not blame individuals, but rather help them understand themselves, their place in the environment, and how these conditions can be improved."

You can read the entire doctoral thesis here:
I Would Walk 10,000 Steps: The Role of Smart Technology Services in Responsibilization of Consumer Well-Being

Hannu Tikkanen will defend his doctoral thesis on Wednesday 23.11.2022 at 12:00 EEST at Hanken School of Economics (Arkadiankatu 22, Helsinki) and remotely. You can attend the defense online by clicking on this Teams link.

Opponent: Professor Cristina Mele, University of Naples Federico II
Curator: Professor Kristina Heinonen, Hanken School of Economics