Worn out: Exploring the Phenomenon of Mental Health Wearable Devices

  • Pavithra, Antoinette (Associate Investigator)
  • Smith, Catherine (Chief Investigator)

Project: Research

Project Details


“Worn out” is a dissertation that explores the contemporary western understanding of mental well-being and ill health when mediated using wearable devices. I attempt to detangle the complex system of researchers, device creators, devices, multi-national corporations, mental health practitioners and device users who inhabit a posthuman cyborg world where wearables serve as prostheses for supposedly dysfunctional minds. I focus on how users ascribe meaning to physiological “artefacts of emotion” to construct ideas of selfhood; and explore the structural factors that drive the development and use of these devices in the aid of the neoliberal capitalist project of achieving optimised selfhood.

Key findings

Consumer use of mental health wearable devices may allow users to make sense of their experiences in productive ways, and help them find sympathetic communities online. However, there is an urgent need for increased and cohesive efforts internationally as well as within Australia for better regulations targetting corporations that are designing and using wearable devices to measure and monitor employee wellbeing and productivity.
Corporate deployment of these devices seems to be marked by usage of devices that have not been subject to independent and open peer review. This may foster unethical practices such as the lack of disclosure around funding for the validation of algorithms, lack of transparency around diagnostic and interpretative mechanisms, and the refusal to subject organisational practices related to using device data to public scrutiny. Such practices have the potential to render vulnerable individuals further exposed to overt and covert circumstances and organisational practices that can be harmful to individual as well as collective wellbeing.
Effective start/end date1/01/1828/02/19