Digital Traces in Context| Self-Tracking Data as Digital Traces of Identity: A Theoretical Analysis of Contextual Factors of Self-Observation Practices

Bernadette Kneidinger-Müller


Digital traces occur as a consequence of using digital devices or applications, but they can also be produced intentionally, as in the case of self-tracking activities. Self-tracking increases the amount of data that represents users’ or communities’ identity traces, and individuals, institutions, and companies are interested in analyzing these data, but few consider the framing conditions of the data collection, distribution, and evaluation. This article demonstrates how contextual factors influence self-observation data. Based on approaches of a sociology of quantification and a theoretical discussion of metadata in scientific research, it examines the individual, social, and technological contextual factors that influence the production, analysis, distribution, and interpretation of digital self-tracking data. The article develops systematization of the phenomenon of self-tracking data.


self-tracking, digital traces, frames, thick descriptions, metadata

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