Risk Consciousness and Public Perceptions of Covid-19 Vaccine Passports

By: Btihaj Ajana (King's College London)

January 2023

A new article by Btihaj Ajana, Elena Engstler, Anas Ismail and Marina Kousta has been accpeted in the Social Sciences Information journal. the article addresses the impact of risk perception on public attitudes to Covid-19 passports.

Accepted version of article available here: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/05390184231182056


In response to the global outbreak of Covid-19 in early 2020, many countries around the world have rushed to develop and implement various mechanisms, including vaccination passports, to contain the spread of the virus and manage its significant impact on heath and society. Covid-19 passports have been promoted as a way of speeding society’s return to ‘normal’ life while protecting public health and safety. These passports, however, are not without controversy. Various concerns have been raised with regard to their social and ethical implications. Framing the discussion within the ‘risk society’ thesis (Beck, 1992) and drawing on an interview-based study with members of the UK public as well as relevant literature, this paper examines perceptions of Covid-19 vaccine passports. The findings of the study indicate that participants’ attitudes towards vaccine passports are primarily driven by factors relating to perceptions of risk. While some considered vaccine passports as a positive strategy to encourage vaccine uptake and facilitate travel and daily activities, others saw this mechanism as a coercive step that might alienate further those who are already vaccine hesitant. Issues of fairness, equity, discrimination, trust and data security were major themes in participants’ narratives and their subjective assessment of vaccine passports.

Perceptions and attitudes towards Covid-19 vaccines: narratives from members of the UK public

By: Btihaj Ajana (King's College London)

July 2022

A new journal article by Btihaj Ajana, Elena Engstler, Anas Ismail and Marina Kousta, addressing public perceptions and attitudes towards Covid-19 vaccines.

Full article available on: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10389-022-01728-w



The aim of the paper is to enhance understanding of how members of the public make sense of the Covid-19 vaccines and to understand the factors influencing their attitudes towards such artefacts of pandemic governance.


The paper draws on 23 online in-depth interviews with members of the UK public and builds on relevant literature to examine participants’ perceptions of the benefits and risks of Covid-19 vaccines, the sources that have shaped their attitudes, and the level of trust they have towards the government’s handling of the pandemic through vaccines.


The findings indicate that participants generally felt that the benefits of having the vaccine outweigh the risks and that Covid-19 vaccines are a crucial mechanism for enabling society to return to normal. Vaccine acceptance was, for some, strongly linked to a sense of social responsibility and the duty to protect others. However, some participants expressed concerns with regard to the side-effects of Covid-19 vaccines and their perceived potential impact on fertility and DNA makeup. Participants used various sources of information to learn about Covid-19 vaccines and understand their function, benefits, and risks. The majority of participants criticised the government’s response during the early stages of the pandemic yet felt positive about the vaccine rollout.


Just as with any other vaccination programme, the success of the Covid-19 immunisation campaigns does not only depend on the efficacy of the vaccines themselves or the ability to secure access to them, but also on a myriad of other factors which include public compliance and trust in governments and health authorities. To support an effective immunisation campaign that is capable of bringing the pandemic to an end, governments need to understand public concerns, garner trust, and devise adequate strategies for engaging the

New book: “The Quantification of Bodies in Health: Multidisciplinary Perspectives”

By: Btihaj Ajana (King's College London)

February 2022

A new book, ‘The Quantification of Bodies in Health: Multidisciplinary Perspectives’ edited by Btihaj Ajana with Simone Guidi and Joaquim Braga

Book description:

The use of digital tracking technologies is a widespread phenomenon. Millions of people around the world now track, document, and analyse their physical activities, vital functions, and daily habits through wearable devices, apps, and platforms. The aim is to assess and improve health, productivity, and wellbeing. The current Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the uptake of tracking technologies.

At the heart of this trend lies the quantification of the body, deemed as a key element in medical practice and personal self-care. While often couched in positive promotional terms that highlight its value to users’ mental, emotional, and physical health, it is also raising a host of issues and concerns that are at once ontological, ethical, political, social, legal, economic, and aesthetic.

The Quantification of Bodies in Health aims to deepen understanding of this growing phenomenon and of the role of self-tracking practices in everyday life. It brings together established and emerging authors working at the intersection of philosophy, sociology, history, psychology, and digital culture, while bridging between philosophical and empirical approaches.

A timely topic of extreme relevance and significance, The Quantification of Bodies in Health constitutes a useful and unique companion for anyone interested in the study of body quantification and self-tracking practices.

More information can be accessed on: https://books.emeraldinsight.com/page/detail/The-Quantification-of-Bodies-in-Health/?k=9781800718845

Personal Science and the Quantified Self Guru

By: Btihaj Ajana (King's College London)

July 2021

Pre-print of chapter:
Ajana, B. (forthcoming) ‘Personal Science and the Quantified Self Guru’. In Lawrence, S.
(ed.) Digital Wellness, Health and Fitness Influencers: Critical Perspectives on Digital Guru Media. London: Routledge. .

In this chapter, I examine the ways in which Quantified Self practices can be considered as “personal science,” a term first introduced by Martin and Brouwer in early 1990s and recently adopted by the Quantified Self community to describe its self-tracking activities and objectives. In doing so, I revisit some relevant arguments put forward by the philosopher, Hans-Georg Gadamer, vis-à-vis the value of the personal and hermeneutic dimension to understanding aspects of health and appreciating the limits of traditional medical methods and their generalising approach. After laying down the basis of the Quantified Self as personal science, the chapter proceeds to examine the example of the Danish self-tracker, Thomas Blomseth Christiansen, who is famous for curing himself of his severe allergies thanks to tracking his sneezes since 2011 and monitoring various other bodily and environmental variables. By drawing on interviews I conducted with Thomas and weaving them into relevant philosophical debates, I provide a critical discussion on the way self-tracking can be seen, at once, as a way of reclaiming autonomy and control over one’s health as well as a form of outsourcing decision-making to technology itself. This discussion leads me to differentiate between active and passive self-tracking, and between members of the Quantified Self circle who build their own tools and the general users who rely on the commercial tech solutions available on the market. Ultimately, I suggest that the Quantified Self community can act as a “guru” for mainstream self-trackers by nurturing a critical and inclusive approach to technological development and use, which can enable users to be involved in the means of production and become experts rather than just users.

Personal metrics: Users’ experiences and perceptions of self-tracking practices and data

By: Btihaj Ajana (King's College London)

November 2020

A new journal article by Btihaj Ajana based on survey study on self-tracking practices and the ideology of data sharing.

Full article available on: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0539018420959522#articleShareContainer


Self-tracking is becoming a prominent and ubiquitous feature in contemporary practices of health and wellness management. Over the last few years, we have witnessed a rapid development in digital tracking devices, apps and platforms, together with the emergence of health movements such as the Quantified Self. As the world is becoming increasingly ruled by metrics and data, we are becoming ever more reliant on technologies of tracking and measurement to manage and evaluate various spheres of our lives including work, leisure, performance, and health. In this article, I begin by briefly outlining some of the key theoretical approaches that have been informing the scholarly debates on the rise of self-tracking. I then move on to discuss at length the findings of an international survey study I conducted with users of self-tracking technologies to discuss the ways in which they perceive and experience these practices, and the various rationales behind their adoption of self-tracking in the first place. The article also addresses participants’ attitudes towards issues of privacy and data sharing and protection. These attitudes seem to be dominated by a lack of concern regarding the use and sharing of self-tracking data with third parties. Some of the overarching sentiments vis-à-vis these issues can be roughly categorized according to feelings of ‘trust’ towards companies and how they handle data, a sense of ‘resignation’ in the face of what is perceived as an all-encompassing and ubiquitous data use, feelings of ‘self-insignificance’ which translates into the belief that one’s data is of no value to others, and the familiar expression of ‘the innocent have nothing to hide’. Overall, this article highlights the benefits and risks of self-tracking practices as experienced and articulated by the participants, while providing a critical reflection on the rise of personal metrics and the culture of measurement and quantification.

COVID-19, Toxic Productivity & Technology Overload: Our New Visceral Digital Life

By: Rachael Kent (King's College London)

November 2020

Whether you are a regular user of social media, an educator, or internet and technology researcher, it was widely understood that the ubiquity of our digital life with our offline selves had become a pervasive dynamic relationship to navigate in our daily lives. If we thought that the datafication of life was firmly in progress with the increasing embedding of everyday digital devices – COVID-19 has accelerated that practical and affective trajectory to a visceral space. As a technology researcher, I was impelled to examine this phenomenological shift where individuals for the first time transitioned into and mediated much of their lives outside of the home via a digital screen. My empirical research interviewed participants between the age of 26 to 54 years of age, located across the UK and Australia during the early lockdown phase of the global COVID-19 pandemic (ref: MRA-19/20-18193). Social and family life, work, self-care, exercise, food delivery, retail; the digital platforms we turned towards to manage our lives, became extensions of our physical self, mediating communications and interactions, both personally and professionally. In turn, they became increasingly pervasive and habitual daily practices in isolation. Key findings from this research trace the developing hybridity of this new visceral digital life.

Immunitarianism: defence and sacrifice in the politics of Covid-19

By: Btihaj Ajana (King's College London)

July 2020

Pre-print paper available at https://osf.io/ax5mt/

doi: 10.31219/osf.io/ax5mt


Abstract: As witnessed over the recent months, immunity emerged as one of most highly debated topics in the current Covid-19 pandemic. Countries around the globe have been debating whether herd immunity or lockdown is the best response, as the race continues for developing a vaccine against coronavirus and as the economic costs of implementing strict containment measures are weighed against public health costs. What became evident all the more is that immunity is precisely what bridges between biological life and political life in the current climate, be it in terms of the contentious notion of herd immunity, the geopolitical struggle for vaccines, or the possible emergence of “Covid-elite”, i.e. holders of so-called “Immunity passports”. Immunity, as such, is certainly not only a matter of science and biology alone, but is inherently political in the way that pandemics themselves are often highly politicised. Drawing on the work of Roberto Esposito and other literature from the field of biopolitics, this paper provides a critical examination of the concept of immunity in light of the recent events, highlighting the intersections between the politics of defence and the politics of sacrifice which animate governments’ immunitary responses and public attitudes towards the Covid-19 pandemic. The paper ends with a discussion on the forms of solidarity that have been emerging during the current pandemic and their potential for an affirmative form of biopolitics.




Self-management for better health?

By: Niklas Trinkhaus

August 2019

A report on the keynote, ‘Self-management for better health? Reflections on the self-tracking culture’, by Btihaj Ajana for the conference, ‘The Futures of eHealth’.

The full report is available here

Interview article for the New Statesman

By: Dorian Lynskey

June 2019

Btihaj Ajana gave an interview about privacy, consent and the new surveillance technologies for the New Statesman. The full interview-based article by Dorian Lynskey can be accessed here

Hacking Life: Systematized Living and Its Discontents

By: Btihaj Ajana (King's College London)

April 2019

Review by Btihaj Ajana of the book, “Hacking Life: Systematized Living and Its Discontents” by Joseph M. Reagle, Jr. (2019). Full Review on The Times Higher Education:


Open data: a shared responsibility

By: Btihaj ajana (King's College London)

April 2019

Interview with Btihaj Ajana by the think tank, W.I.R.E, for Sanitas health insurance company. The interview focuses on the themes of Open Data and solidarity addressing some of the ethical issues around data sharing.

The full  transcript of the interview can be accessed here

Also available in French, German and Italian

New Book: “Metric Culture: Ontologies of Self-Tracking Practices”

By: Btihaj Ajana (King's College London)

September 2018

The new book Metric Culture: Ontoogies of Self-Tracking Pratices (Emerald, 2018) is edited by Btihaj Ajana following the international conference, Metric Culture: The Quantified Self and Beyond, held in June 2017  at the Aarhus Institute of Advanced Studies. Book summary: We live in a “metric culture” where data, algorithms, and numbers play an unmistakably powerful role in defining, shaping and ruling the world we inhabit. Increasingly, governments across the globe are turning towards metric technologies to find solutions for managing various social domains such as healthcare and education. While private corporations are becoming more and more interested in the collection and analysis of data and metrics for profit generation and service optimisation. What is striking about this metric culture is that not only are governments and private companies the only actors interested in using metrics and data to control and manage individuals and populations, but individuals themselves are now choosing to voluntarily quantify themselves and their lives more than ever before, happily sharing the resulting data with others and actively turning themselves into projects of (self-) governance and surveillance.

Metric Culture is also not only about data and numbers alone but links to issues of power and control, to questions of value and agency, and to expressions of self and identity. This book provides a critical investigation into these issues examining what is driving the agenda of metric culture and how it is manifested in the different spheres of everyday life through self-tracking practices. Authors engage with a broad range of topics, examples, geographical contexts, and sites of analysis in order to account for the diversity and hybridity of metric culture and explore its various social, political and ethical implications.

Quantified patients? The transformation of patients in the metric culture

By: Gemma Hughes (University of Oxford)

December 2017

We all need healthcare at some point in our lives, whether due to illness, injury, or as part of the shared human experience of entering and exiting the world when we are born and when we die.   The provision of healthcare therefore affects each of us, and in very personal ways.  Although there are many expectations that people take care of their own health, optimising their wellbeing through good diet and sufficient exercise, we cannot heal ourselves when sick, provide our own medicine, surgery or nursing care.  Therefore, our needs for healthcare can only be met by interactions with other people. This is especially the case when we are very young, very old, or seriously ill, when we rely on others to help us.  The use and provision of healthcare is a social experience made up of encounters between people.  These encounters often reflect an asymmetric relationship, with the person seeking healthcare, the patient, in a position with fewer resources or less knowledge than the healthcare practitioner.   Organisations providing healthcare institutionalise this superior power over help-seeking patients in different ways, including controlling access to services.

New book: “Self-tracking: Empirical and Philosophical Investigations”

By: Btihaj Ajana (Ed) (King's College London)

October 2017

The new book Self-Tracking: Empirical and Philosophical Investigations (Palgrave, 2017) is edited by Btihaj Ajana and is partly an outcome of the AIAS Workshop, The Quantified Self and the Rise of Self-Tracking Culture (2016), organised by Btihaj Ajana during her fellowship at the Aarhus Institute of Advanced Studies. The book is an empirical and philosophical investigation of self-tracking practices which aims to enhance understanding of this fast-growing trend by bringing together scholars who are working at the forefront of the critical study of self-tracking practices. Read more about the book here: http://www.springer.com/br/book/9783319653785

Buying (into) sleep apps

By: Antoinette Mary Fage-Butler (Aarhus University)

August 2017

Many of us experience poor sleep from time to time. As we toss and turn, we are likely to recall the many times in our lives we were told about the importance of getting sufficient sleep in order to be happy, healthy and productive, and that we have an obligation both to ourselves and to others to be “well-slept”.

As with many other aspects of our lives that are deemed to be functioning less well, apps have been produced to help those who suffer from poor sleep. Sleep apps typically include “sonic therapies” such as nature sounds, white noise and meditations. “Smart” alarms monitor your sleep to identify the best time in your sleep cycle to wake you up. Sleep trackers provide quantitative information about the duration of your sleep and sleep cycle patterns. Bedtime reminders are also a feature of some sleep apps.

This short article provides some reflections on the rising trend of sleep tracking.