Worn out: how mental health wearables devices are changing the landscape of mental health

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


My paper is based on an ethnographic research project that seeks to understand how the contemporary western understanding of mental well-being and ill health is forged through the use of technological interventions such as wearable devices. I attempt to untangle the complex interactions between researchers, device creators, devices, multi-national corporations, service providers and device users who inhabit a posthuman cyborg world where our devices serve as prostheses for supposedly dysfunctional minds. I draw from a range of theorists, from Paul-Michel Foucault and Donna Haraway to Andy Clark and Deborah Lupton, and build upon existing scholarship around the quantified-self movement, to examine how my interlocutors ascribed meaning to the physiological artefacts of emotion captured by wearable devices, in order to construct a sense of self and normativity based on their interaction with these devices. Further, I also explore how device manufacturers arrive at algorithms that determine hitherto elusive objective baselines for affective states. Is the seeming reductionism of a range of meanings of the physiological signs of distress read by devices a cause for concern? Especially when interpreted by employers and individuals themselves, removed from the context within which an individual experienced these emotions? What role do policy regulations play in the process of interpreting physiological data (and the privacy of this data) such as heart rhythms and breathing patterns as related to mood states? Does the use of these devices prove therapeutic or are they being used as another means of socialization?
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 29 Aug 2018
EventSociety for Social Studies of Science (4S) Conference - Sydney, Australia
Duration: 29 Aug 20181 Sep 2018


ConferenceSociety for Social Studies of Science (4S) Conference


  • mental health
  • wearable devices
  • bioethics
  • embodied mind
  • artefact of emotion


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