Privileging Particular Bodies in Archives from March 14, 2017
In her chapter “Quantified Selves”, Jill Walker Rettburg discusses what tracking devices “cannot measure” (72). Interestingly, her well-chosen example is a “sex tracking app” called SpreadSheets (72). Walker Rettburg critiques the app’s heteronormative measures of sex practices as she notes its normative approach to “aspects of sex that do not involve thrusting or loud vocalisation” (73). In doing so, she productively critiques how devices rely on movement, noise, and normative notions of activity, and in this case, sex practice. However, I find Walker Rettburg’s critique limited.
Her analysis of the SpreadSheets app could go further to argue that an app that tracks motion has multiple “strong cultural understanding[s]” attached (72). The app not only limits itself to a heteronormative notion of sex, but also rejects differences in ability, differences in place or position (sex practice is not always on a bed), differences in class, and differences in age, etc. Walker Rettburg questions “[w]hat is left out” of our “quantifiable selves” and from her limited analysis it seems that very much is left out of app design and tracking, but more importantly from our understanding of modern day archives.
Many apps cannot or do not account for differences in ability, non-binary gender, etc. Thus, many non-normative individuals cannot use particular apps to archive their everyday activities and form tracked, quantifiable, and digital selves. In this way, digital archives seem to privilege particular bodies. Therefore, in what ways do digital archives continue to exclude certain bodies and narratives?
Rettberg, Jill Walker. “Quantified Selves.” Seeing Ourselves through Technology: How We Use Selfies, Blogs and Wearable Devices to See and Shape Ourselves. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014. 20-32. Springer Link. Web. 17 Jan. 2017.