Walking as a social practice: dispersed walking and the organisation of everyday practices

Harries, Tim and Rettie, Ruth (2016) Walking as a social practice: dispersed walking and the organisation of everyday practices. Sociology of Health & Illness, 38(6), pp. 874-883. ISSN (print) 0141-9889


This paper uses social practice theory to study the interweaving of walking into everyday practices and considers how greater awareness of everyday walking can influence its position within the organisation and scheduling of everyday life. Walking is of policy interest because of its perceived benefits for health. This paper asserts that increased awareness of everyday walking allows users to become more active without having to reschedule existing activities. Using Schatzki’s distinction between dispersed and integrative practices, it argues that by increasing awareness of dispersed walking can enlist walking into the teleoaffective organisation of some social practices and prompt the performance of new ‘health practices’ within everyday domains of life such as shopping and employment. While this analysis offers useful insights for the design of behaviour change strategies, it also points to some unintended consequences of using digital feedback to increase walking awareness. In directing the gaze of participants at one particular element of their daily practices, the paper suggests, digital walking feedback provides a ‘partial’ view of practices: in highlighting the exercise value of walking at the expense of other values it can prompt feedback recipients to pass moral judgements on themselves based on this partial view.

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