Gina Neff

Gina Neff is Associate Professor of Communication and Sociology and a senior data scientist at the University of Washington. She is the author of Venture Labor: Work and the Burden of Risk in Innovative Industries (MIT Press).

  • Self-Tracking

    Self-Tracking

    Gina Neff and Dawn Nafus

    What happens when people turn their everyday experience into data: an introduction to the essential ideas and key challenges of self-tracking.

    People keep track. In the eighteenth century, Benjamin Franklin kept charts of time spent and virtues lived up to. Today, people use technology to self-track: hours slept, steps taken, calories consumed, medications administered. Ninety million wearable sensors were shipped in 2014 to help us gather data about our lives. This book examines how people record, analyze, and reflect on this data, looking at the tools they use and the communities they become part of. Gina Neff and Dawn Nafus describe what happens when people turn their everyday experience—in particular, health and wellness-related experience—into data, and offer an introduction to the essential ideas and key challenges of using these technologies. They consider self-tracking as a social and cultural phenomenon, describing not only the use of data as a kind of mirror of the self but also how this enables people to connect to, and learn from, others.

    Neff and Nafus consider what's at stake: who wants our data and why; the practices of serious self-tracking enthusiasts; the design of commercial self-tracking technology; and how self-tracking can fill gaps in the healthcare system. Today, no one can lead an entirely untracked life. Neff and Nafus show us how to use data in a way that empowers and educates.

  • Venture Labor

    Venture Labor

    Work and the Burden of Risk in Innovative Industries

    Gina Neff

    Why employees of pioneering Internet companies chose to invest their time, energy, hopes, and human capital in start-up ventures.

    In the dot-com boom of the late 1990s, employees of Internet startups took risks—left well-paying jobs for the chance of striking it rich through stock options (only to end up unemployed a year later), relocated to areas that were epicenters of a booming industry (that shortly went bust), chose the opportunity to be creative over the stability of a set schedule. In Venture Labor, Gina Neff investigates choices like these made by high-tech workers in New York City's “Silicon Alley” in the 1990s. Why did these workers exhibit entrepreneurial behavior in their jobs—investing time, energy, and other personal resources that Neff terms “venture labor”—when they themselves were employees and not entrepreneurs?

    Neff argues that this behavior was part of a broader shift in society in which economic risk shifted away from collective responsibility toward individual responsibility. In the new economy, risk and reward took the place of job loyalty, and the dot-com boom helped glorify risks. Company flexibility was gained at the expense of employee security. Through extensive interviews, Neff finds not the triumph of the entrepreneurial spirit but a mixture of motivations and strategies, informed variously by bravado, naïveté, and cold calculation. She connects these individual choices with larger social and economic structures, making it clear that understanding venture labor is of paramount importance for encouraging innovation and, even more important, for creating sustainable work environments that support workers.

    • Hardcover $36.00
    • Paperback $24.00

Contributor

  • Quantified

    Quantified

    Biosensing Technologies in Everyday Life

    Dawn Nafus

    What is at stake socially, culturally, politically, and economically when we routinely use technology to gather information about our bodies and environments?

    Today anyone can purchase technology that can track, quantify, and measure the body and its environment. Wearable or portable sensors detect heart rates, glucose levels, steps taken, water quality, genomes, and microbiomes, and turn them into electronic data. Is this phenomenon empowering, or a new form of social control? Who volunteers to enumerate bodily experiences, and who is forced to do so? Who interprets the resulting data? How does all this affect the relationship between medical practice and self care, between scientific and lay knowledge? Quantified examines these and other issues that arise when biosensing technologies become part of everyday life.

    The book offers a range of perspectives, with views from the social sciences, cultural studies, journalism, industry, and the nonprofit world. The contributors consider data, personhood, and the urge to self-quantify; legal, commercial, and medical issues, including privacy, the outsourcing of medical advice, and self-tracking as a “paraclinical” practice; and technical concerns, including interoperability, sociotechnical calibration, alternative views of data, and new space for design.

    Contributors Marc Böhlen, Geoffrey C. Bowker, Sophie Day, Anna de Paula Hanika, Deborah Estrin, Brittany Fiore-Gartland, Dana Greenfield, Judith Gregory, Mette Kragh-Furbo, Celia Lury, Adrian Mackenzie, Rajiv Mehta, Maggie Mort, Dawn Nafus, Gina Neff, Helen Nissenbaum, Heather Patterson, Celia Roberts, Jamie Sherman, Alex Taylor, Gary Wolf

    • Hardcover $27.00
    • Paperback $27.00