Academic Paper: WeChat Movement: How do self-tracking technologies affect our lives?

Introduction

WeChat is a widely used chat app which has more than one billion users around the world, most of them are from China. WeChat Movement is one of WeChat’s functions, which also has a huge number of users, as long as you are a WeChat user and follow WeChat Movement official account, then allow it to read your location and movement data from your smart phone, it begins to work: record your daily steps, generate steps ranking list. Because it is a self-tracking application based on social media, it has both self- tracking and social functions. So how could it affect users’ lives?

It is worth noting that self-tracking has been a widely studied topic around the world, and there are also many Chinese scholars have studied the influence of WeChat Movement on communication. According to them, self-tracking plays different roles when people use it (Lyall and Robards, 2017). Not only does it record data as a tool, it also generats a range of affective forces by participants (Lupton, 2019) and causes an impact on users’ social and interpersonal relationships (Wan, 2017). It means that self-tracking technology is not a simple technology to track people’s physical condition, it has a certain social impact. Though different scholars have different research focuses, they all point to the “soft impact (Swierstra, 2015)” of technology, which can not be ignored in technomoral change. Researches on self-tracking deserve further consideration since it it first affects people’s life as a technology, and then brings deeper social impacts.

Ranking

In this paper, I will take a specific self-tracking application: WeChat Movement as my research subject, to discuss what changes WeChat movement has brought to users’ lives and our society. Firstly, I will introduce ethnography and qualitative interviews which are used as main methods. Secondly, I will present a literature review about self-tracking and technomoral change as theoretical sources. Then the data of my qualitative interview will be analyzed, in order to have a discussion with the literature to get my own opinions. At last, I will draw conclusions based on the theories and findings to answer my research questions: to what extent does this self-tracking application, WeChat movement, affect personal life and society?

4 Responses

  1. buchholz says:

    Dear Mengxin,

    as someone who’s not familiar with the app WeChat, it was really interesting to read about the feature “WeChat Movement” and how it is used in day-to-day life.
    One aspect I found really interesting in your study was that the interviewee was really concerned with his placement on the ranking system. You explained how this can be seen as one of the social functions of the application and I think it would be great to explore this aspect a bit further. There seems to be an ambiguity between the playfulness of the app and the social pressure that comes with it, so it could be a good starting point to interview users (or past users) and see if they have differing opinions on the subject.
    Another topic that I think would be greatly suited for future research is the concern for privacy that your interviewee expressed. On the one hand, he didn’t want people to follow his steps whilst he was at work, but on the other, he admitted to looking up his own family members. Therefore, it could be interesting to investigate the users (maybe changing) understanding of privacy a bit more in-depth.

    All the best, Leah

  2. Leti says:

    The topic presented revolves around the social media WeChat. The author focuses on the WeChat Movement feature and how it affects people’s lives both in a social and self-tracking way. The subject is quite interesting considering how most of self-tracking apps are not as directly connected to a social media. As WeChat is directly connected to you contact, it creates some sort of competition with your friends, which motivates users. The author also discusses how users tend to utilize their phone more. Further research could focus more on this point. It would be interesting to find out to what extent users interact with their phone more due to WeChat. Another interesting topic to follow through could be the privacy aspect regarding the tracking done by the application. It would be interesting to see to what extent this technology is used as a surveillance tool and how users perceive this.
    Very interesting subject, keep up the good work!

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