Bioethics Blogs

Smaller nose? Bigger boobs? Flatter stomach? There’s an app for that.

Two weeks ago, beautiful Birmingham was home to a two-day workshop on the globalisation of beauty.

The workshop – organised by the network BeautyDemands (more about the Nuffield Council’s involvement with the BeautyDemands here) – saw presentations from a wide range of contributors, but it was one issue in particular which led me to do a little further digging of my own.

A presentation by Professor Rosalind Gill focused on aesthetic entrepreneurship, which highlighted a body of work around beauty which she called, ‘The quantified self’. This session explored, for example, how self-tracking and self-monitoring materialise in digital technologies, and change the way we may relate to ourselves.

The application of self-tracking and monitoring is clearly very relevant to health contexts: for example, smartphones are optimised to record how far we walk, how many calories we consume, or how well we sleep. However, over the past few years beauty apps available to mobile and tablet users have also suffused the market.

As a relative technophobe who mainly uses a smartphone to see if it’s going to rain, and to find my way to the nearest bus stop (it’s all glamour), beauty apps were very much off my radar. So I decided to find out more about them.

The Nuffield Council’s current project on cosmetic procedures will focus primarily on invasive non-reconstructive cosmetic procedures (excluding temporary changes such as tanning or the application of make-up), so I restricted my searches to specific apps which focus on cosmetic procedures and surgeries. I gave myself just one hour to explore, fearing that weeks of my working life could quite easily be sucked into a chasm of curiosity.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.