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A Panopticon on My Wrist: The Biopower of Big Data Visualization for Wearables
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Big data visualization – the visual-spatial display of quantitative information culled from huge data sets – is now firmly embedded within the everyday experiences of people across the globe, yet scholarship on it remains surprisingly small. Within this literature, critical theorizations of big data visualizations are rare, as digital positivist perspectives dominate. This paper offers a critical, design-informed perspective on big data visualization in wearable health tracking ecosystems like FitBit. I argue that such visualizations are tools of individualized, neoliberal governance that operate largely through experiences of seduction and addiction to facilitate participation in the corporate capture and monetization of personal information. Exploration of my personal experience of the FitBit ecosystem illuminates this argument and emphasizes the capacity for harm to individuals using these ecosystems, leading to an exploration of the complex professional challenges for user experience designers working on visualizations within the ecosystems of wearables.