Physical activity in the digital age


New media and communication technologies have a significant impact on our behavior. They have changed the way we interact, work, spend our leisure time and consume media (Castells, 2011; Courtois, Mechant, Paulussen, & De Marez, 2012). To an increasing degree, media and communication technologies have also started to impact our physical activity and exercising behavior with the incorporation of wearable technology (e.g. FitBit, Jawbone) and online social network platforms as a growing trend. People are increasingly logging and sharing their physical activities on dedicated social media platforms or ‘Online Fitness Communities’ (OFC). Popular examples of these OFCs are RunKeeper, Strava, Nike+ and Endomondo. These communities are a recent phenomenon that experiences growing user bases (Dredge, 2013, September 23). The allow their users to actively monitor their physical activity and do so in connection with their online peers and social networks.

The aim of this PhD-project is to explore the domestication and use of wearable technology and its connection to online social networks on Online Fitness Communities in a physical activity context. More specifically, we want to assess how this upcoming technology gets incorporated into health behavior and address added value of social interactions on online platforms. An integration of both Domestication Theory and Theory of Media Attendance provides an optimal framework for addressing these research questions.


The project applies a mixed-method approach of traditional social scientific research methods including online surveying and in-depth interviews, and innovative data driven methodologies using the data harvesting through the APIs of OFCs. This mixed-method approach allows us to collect both observational & transactional data on usage of OFCs, without having to rely on self-reporting, and psychosocial data (which can only be collected through self-report) to complement and provide a deeper and more complete context to transactional data.

Duration of the project

The project runs from 01/01/2014 - 31/12/2018.

Staff involved

  • Jeroen Stragier

Financed by

  • iMinds