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Cambridge Reproduction


Data, for the first time in history, is both a source of value and knowledge. This intersection underpins most business models in the digital economy. Tech companies have amassed great capital through data generated by people in their daily lives: this data is either sold or used to gain insights into human behaviour which are in turn bought and sold. These insights which are based on the datafication and commodification of people’s everyday activities are often assumed to be uncannily accurate. I study this commodification of people’s data by situating my research in the sector of women’s health applications in Egypt and Austria. Specifically, I study fertility apps which are used to track the menstrual cycle. These apps are increasingly popular and provide advertisers with the highly sought-after information whether women are pregnant. They also encapsulate how data is both source of knowledge and value. I ask how women in Austria and Egypt navigate the commodification of their data, because I am interested to understand the difference between both a context of strong and weak data protection.

Building upon social reproduction theory, feminist Marxist literature, anthropology, and surveillance studies, I ask: How do women in Cairo and Vienna navigate this space where their everyday lives are commodified and datafied? To answer this, I interrogate how data attains its relationship with knowledge/truth and economic value in the context of data capitalism and period tracking applications? How are gender and labour as categories are re-inscribed and co-produced in the digital economy, specifically in self-tracking applications such as period trackers?

I am interested in the history of menstruation, social reproduction theory, state and corporate surveillance, coloniality, access to knowledge, materialist approaches to data and global markets, and the intersection of gender and labour.