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Tracking the Human: Posthumanism, Ethics, and Critique in Health Tracking Technologies

  • Author(s): Woodlan, Todd
  • Advisor(s): Hartouni, Val
  • et al.
Abstract

This dissertation attempts to identify a new way in which individuals are using health tracking technologies to create localized versions of what counts as human. These new versions of the human stand in opposition to the humanist model of the human, which posits a universal model that should be replicated in individuals through techniques of self-care – a model that has proven to be deeply problematic by defining the human largely as rational, white, male, and Western and excluding those who do not fit this model. However, the new forms of the human that emerge from contemporary health tracking technologies rely on individual datasets, making it difficult to expand the resulting model of the human to a population at large and create a universal model along the lines of traditional humanism. Moreover, these models can create a basis upon which others can engage in self-critical dialogue with their own data, creating unique models of self-care that promote localized ideas of health. Here, in the decline of a universalized notion of “the human” and the rise of a risky type of sharing, this dissertation will show that it is possible to see the beginnings of a type of humanism – one that retains the idea of a human in place of the human in order to re-invigorate Enlightenment ideals of critique, justice, and ethics.

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