How Old am I? Digital Culture and Quantified Ageing
Author(s): Marshall, Barbara L.; Katz, Stephen
In previous work we argued that ageing bodies and changes across the life-course were becoming measured, standardised, and treated according to a new logic of functionality, supplanting traditional categories of normality (Katz/Marshall 2004). In particular, the binary between the ‘functional’ and the ‘dysfunctional’ has become a powerful tool in mapping and distributing bodies around datapoints, functional subsystems, and posthuman informatics. In this paper, we extend this line of analysis by exploring how current developments in self-tracking technologies and the proliferation of digital apps are creating new modes and styles of ‘quantified ageing’. In particular, we identify four interrelated fields for inquiry that are specifically relevant in setting out a research agenda on ageing quantified selves and statistical bodies: 1) ‘Wearables’ and mobile technologies, including both technologies designed for selfmonitoring/self-improvement (health, fitness, sleep, mood and so on) and those designed for surveillance of and ‘management’ of ageing individuals by children, caregivers or institutions. 2) Digital apps, including those that collect and connect data uploaded from wearable devices, and those that deploy various algorithms for ‘calculating’ age and its correlates. 3) The rhetorics of games and scores in age-related apps such as those used in digital ‘brain training’ games that track a person’s imagined cognitive plasticity and enhancement, while promising protection against memory loss and even dementia. 4) The political economy of data sharing, aggregation and surveillance of ageing populations. Conclusions ponder wider sociological questions; for example, how will the insurance industry acquire and use data from digital health technologies to produce new actuarial standards? How will older individuals plan their futures according to the risks assembled through quantifying technologies? We argue that the technical turn to new ways of quantifying and standardising measurements of age raises a range of complex and important questions about ageism, agency and inequality.
Marshall, Barbara L.; Katz, Stephen: How Old am I? Digital Culture and Quantified Ageing. In: Digital Culture & Society, Jg. 2 (2016), Nr. 1, S. 145–152. DOI: https://doi.org/10.25969/mediarep/893.
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