Cookies?
Library Header Image
LSE Research Online LSE Library Services

An optimal environment for our optimal selves? An autoethnographic account of self-tracking personal exposure to air pollution

Tan, Sarah H. A. and Smith, T. E. L. (2020) An optimal environment for our optimal selves? An autoethnographic account of self-tracking personal exposure to air pollution. Area. ISSN 0004-0894

[img] Text (An optimal environment for our optimal selves? An autoethnographic account of self-tracking personal exposure to air pollution) - Accepted Version
Repository staff only until 2 October 2022.

Download (941kB) | Request a copy

Identification Number: 10.1111/area.12671

Abstract

This paper presents an autoethnographic study which tracks the experience of routinely monitoring personal exposure to air pollution, using Plume Labs’ ‘Flow’ device. While conventional air quality data is provided by static monitoring stations, this paper seeks to understand how new intimate data from portable sensors can influence decision-making and induce behavioural change. This is explored in relation to self-tracking and the ‘Quantified Self’ (QS) movement, recognising that the environment is intrinsically part of the self and the body. Through autoethnography and reflecting on experiences in London and Kuala Lumpur, this paper explores the practicalities of using Flow and its potential as a transformative tool to facilitate societal consciousness and change towards ‘the optimal self’ with minimised exposure to air pollution. Through personal experience and interactions with others, this paper finds that individuals’ willingness and ability to attempt to minimise exposure to air pollution is subject to a combination of factors within and beyond one’s control. However, whilst self-tracking does not necessarily translate into attempts to minimise exposure, choosing to be exposed to higher levels of air pollution in certain circumstances becomes an active decision. Whilst some maintained their scepticism of Flow’s potential, and others remained apathetic towards air pollution, Flow was found to be particularly effective in cultivating curiosity and consciousness through its facilitation of conversations about air quality. Flow’s provision of otherwise absent information and its potential to create a network of better-informed individuals is exciting but uncertain. This paper raises important questions about the role of the QS and such sensor devices in addressing urban air pollution and creating a sense of collective accountability to the environment, moving towards a new goal of ‘the optimal environment for our optimal selves’.

Item Type: Article
Official URL: https://www.wiley.com/en-gb/Area-p-9780JRNL57893
Additional Information: © 2020 John Wiley & Sons
Divisions: Geography & Environment
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GE Environmental Sciences
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
Date Deposited: 25 Sep 2020 15:51
Last Modified: 16 Oct 2020 11:12
URI: http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/id/eprint/106632

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item

Downloads

Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics