Biosensing Networks: Sense-Making in Consumer Genomics and Ovulation Tracking

  • Mette Kragh-Furbo
  • Joann Wilkinson
  • Maggie Mort
  • Celia Roberts
  • Adrian Mackenzie
Part of the Health, Technology and Society book series (HTE)


How do individuals make sense of their biosensor data? Focusing on two different health biosensors—an ovulation monitor and the consumer gene test—we discuss how individuals interpret their biosensor data by engaging in exchanges on online forums. Participants share and discuss ovulation patterns and genetic susceptibilities by drawing on a range of materials. We argue that it is through these biosensing networks that genetic and ovulation data become meaningful, and that it is through this process that the biosensing body is acquired. We show how discussion and speculation, artefacts and body sensations, anticipations and corporeal imaginaries are part of what constitute and hold together the biosensing body.


  1. 23andMe. (2015). What your DNA says about you. Available online at Accessed December 11, 2015.
  2. Clarke, A., Shim, J., Mamo, L., Fosket, J., & Fishman, J. (2003). Biomedicalization: Technoscientific transformations of health, illness and U.S. biomedicine. American Sociological Review, 68(2), 161–194. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Crawford, K., Lingel, J., & Karppi, T. (2015). Our metrics, Our selves: A hundred years of self-tracking from the weight scale to the wrist wearable device. Journal of European Cultural Studies, 18(4–5), 479–496.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Duden, B. (1993). Disembodying women: Perspectives on pregnancy and the unborn. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Google Scholar
  5. Epstein, S. (1995). The construction of lay expertise: AIDS activism and the forging of credibility in the reform of clinical trials. Science, Technology and Human Values, 20(4), 408–437.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Fiore-Gartland, B., & Neff, G. (2016). Disruption and the political economy of biosensor data. In D. Nafus (Ed.), Quantified: Biosensing technologies in everyday life (pp. 101–122). Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Fox, N. (2015). Personal health technologies, micropolitics and resistance: A new materialist analysis. Health. doi: 10.1177/1363459315590248.Google Scholar
  8. Haraway, D. (1997). Modest Witness@Second Millenium: Femaleman meets oncomouse feminism and technoscience . London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  9. Harris, A., Wyatt, S., & Kelly, S. (2013). The gift of spit (and the obligation to return it). Information, Communication and Society, 16(2), 236–257.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Hartouni, V. (1997). Cultural conceptions: On reproductive technologies and the making of life. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
  11. Hine, C. (2008). Virtual ethnography: Modes, varieties, affordances. In N. Fielding, R. Lee, & G. Blank (Eds.), The Sage handbook of online research methods (pp. 257–270). London: Sage Publications.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Latour, B. (2004). How to talk about the body: The normative dimension of science studies. Body and Society, 10(2–3), 205–229.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Latour, B. (2005). Reassembling the social: An introduction to actor-network-theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  14. Law, J. (2009). Actor network theory and material semiotics. In S. Turner (Ed.), The new blackwell companion to social theory (pp. 141–158). Oxford: Blackwell Publishing Ltd.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Lupton, D. (2014). Beyond techno-Utopian: Critical approaches to digital health technologies. Societies, 4, 706–711.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Martin, A., Myers, N., & Viseu, A. (2015). The politics of care in technoscience. Social Studies of Science, 45(5), 625–641.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Markam, N. (2003). Representation in Online Ethnographies. A Matter of Context Sensitivity. Unpublished PhD Thesis. Department of Communication, University of Illinois at Chicago.Google Scholar
  18. Mol, A. (2002). The body multiple: Ontology in medical practice. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Mort, M., Roberts, C., Furbo, M., Wilkinson, J., & Mackenzie, A. (2016). Biosensing: How citizens’ views illuminate emerging health and social risks. Health, Risk and Society doi:10/1080/13698575.1135234.Google Scholar
  20. Nafus, D. (2014). Stuck data, dead data and disloyal data: The stops and starts in making numbers into social practices. Distinktion: Scandinavian Journal of Social Theory, 15(2), 208–222.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Nafus, D. (Ed.). (2016). Quantified: Biosensing technologies in everyday life. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  22. Novas, C., & Rose, N. (2000). Genetic risk and the birth of the somatic individual. Economy and Society, 29(4), 485–513.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Oudshoorn, N., & Pinch, T. (2002). How users matter: The co-construction of users and technology. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  24. Pasveer, B. (1989). Knowledge of shadows: The introduction of X-ray images in medicine. Sociology of Health & Illness, 11(4), 360–381.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Pols, J. (2014). Knowing patients: Turning patient knowledge into science. Science, Technology and Human Values, 39(1), 73–97.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Pols, J., & Hoogsteyns, M. (2016). Shaping the subject of incontinence. Relating experience to knowledge. ALTER, European Journal of Disability Research 10 (2016), 40–53.Google Scholar
  27. Puig de la Bellacasa, M. (2011). Matter of care in technoscience: Assembling neglected things. Social Studies of Science, 41(1), 85–106.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Rabeharisoa, V., Moreira, T., & Akrich, M. (2014). Evidence-based activism: Patients’, users’ and activists’ groups in knowledge society. BioSocieties, 9(2), 111–128.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Roberts, J. (2012). ‘Wakey, wakey baby’: Narrating four dimensional (4D) bonding scans. Sociology of Health & Illness, 34(2), 299–314.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Rogers, R. (2013). Digital methods. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  31. Rose, N. (2007). The politics of life itself. Biomedicine, Power, and Subjectivity in the twenty-first century. New Jersey: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  32. Till, C. (2014). Exercise as labour: Quantified self and the transformation of exercise into labour. Societies, 4, 446–462.Google Scholar
  33. Viseu, A., & Suchman, L. (2010). Wearable augmentation: Imaginaries of the informed body. In J. Edwards, P. Harvey, & P. Wade (Eds.), Technologized images, technologized bodies (pp. 161–184). New York: Berghahn Books.Google Scholar
  34. Yasko, A. (2004). Autism: Pathways to recovery. Bethel, ME: Neurological Research Institute.Google Scholar
  35. Yasko, A. (2016). Dr. Amy Yasko. Available online at Accessed January 29, 2016.

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mette Kragh-Furbo
    • 1
  • Joann Wilkinson
    • 1
  • Maggie Mort
    • 1
  • Celia Roberts
    • 1
  • Adrian Mackenzie
    • 1
  1. 1.University of LancasterLancasterUK

Personalised recommendations