Self Tracking: The Long March of Private Information Systems in the IS Literature

Research Highlights

- Information Systems (IS) for applications in private contexts are enjoying increasing popularity

- In a bibliometric study covering 1,765 articles, we assess to what extend this trend is reflected in the IS literature

- We find that private IS receive limited attention in IS outlets, not reflecting their practical relevance



Due to the falling costs of collecting, processing, transferring, and storing data, information systems (IS) have expanded from selective high-end applications in professional environments to increasingly conquer our private lives. Notably, for self-tracking applications that support individuals in various activities (e.g., health and fitness tracking), market researches forecast up to 504 million wearables (e.g., devices that integrate mini computers and sensor systems) to be shipped by 2021. We investigate to what extent the trend towards the use of IS in private contexts is reflected in top IS outlets.  


In a quantitative bibliometric study, we classified IS articles regarding the topic they address and the methodology they apply by year and outlet. The analysis covers the full set of articles (N=1,765 in total) that have been published in the years 1995, 2005, and 2015 in the IS Senior Scholars' Basket of Journals and in the conferences ICIS and ECIS. We selected those three exemplary years to get a sense for the evolution of IS research on private IS over time. Furthermore, we conducted a focused review of publications on self-tracking that extends to other research disciplines.  


The results show that private IS continue to play only a minor role in IS outlets, yet the discourse appears to gather momentum. The share of publications on IS in private context increased from 2% to 10% in the outlets and years studied. Among those articles, only seven cover self-tracking. The topic plays a more prominent role in other disciplines such as human-computer interaction and psychology.  

Selected publications

Kupfer, Tiefenbeck , Staake (2018): “The Ambiguous Boundary Between Professional and Private Use of Information Systems”. ECIS 2018 Proceedings.

Kupfer (2018): “Self-tracking or Not? That is the question. Item Generation for Construct Development”, Tagungsband der Multikonferenz Wirtschaftsinformatik

Kupfer, Kehr, Tiefenbeck (2016) “Towards a measurement scale for self-tracking: Attitudes and user characteristics”, Proceedings of the 24th European Conference on Information Systems (ECIS)


Anna Kupfer, Thorsten Staake, Verena Tiefenbeck, Flavius Kehr 



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