Abstract deadline: July 1, 2015
‘And now,’ the doctor said, tapping Mae’s wrist monitor, ‘now it’s active. It’ll collect data on your heart rate, blood pressure, cholesterol, heat flux, caloric intake, sleep duration, sleep quality, digestive efficiency, on and on. […] When we see non-normative rates of stress in a Circler or a department, we can make adjustments to workload, for example. It measures the pH level of your sweat, so you can tell when you need to hydrate with alkaline water. It detects your posture, so you know when you need to reposition yourself. Blood and tissue oxygen, your red blood cell count, and things like step count. (Eggers 2013: 154-155)
Just like her colleagues at ‘The Circle’ – the fictional IT-company in David Eggers’ eponymous novel – new entrant Mae is asked to swallow a tiny sensor which is able to monitor important vital functions in real-time, visualizing the results on a wristlet’s display and then reporting the data to the company’s medical center. While in Egger’s fictional work the idea of a fully quantified and numerical body presages a dystopian society of control, contemporary Quantified Self enthusiasts are tempted by the possibilities of the surveyed body. Thus, joggers can keep track of their accomplishments, snorers can monitor their sleep, and chronically ill patients can re-adjust their medication. “Self-knowledge through numbers” became the mantra of the emerging communities of self-trackers (Lupton 2014), and Quantified Self, lifelogging, and personal informatics are the terms applied to describe the use of digital technology to track physical activity, quantify bodily processes, and monitor the own conduct of life. While pre-digital precursors to the Quantified Self, e.g. the British “mass observation” movement of the 1930s, or what has been described as “direct observations” by Schütz (1964) a.o., have anticipated what now has become a mass phenomenon, critical historical analysis will have to point out similarities and differences between new forms of digitally enhanced practices and their pre-digital precursors. The proclaimed aim has been and remains body management and control through monitoring and feedback with the ambition to transform the body and its activities into numeric representations that can be stored, addressed, visualized, monitored, processed, transmitted, and evaluated in order to deduce knowledge about the body.
Closely related to the use of technology to gain knowledge about the body is its somatic and cognitive enhancement by means of technology. It aims at improving the body and eventually humanity itself (More 2013). Therefore questions concerning quantified selves and statistic bodies are part of wider theoretical discourses around “the technical recontextualization of biological components and processes” (Thacker 2004: 11). The establishment research approaches that question the strict ontological distinction between the biological and the technological can also be understood as indicators of an institutionalization of research into emerging interdependencies between individuals, societies, and technologies. Examples are transhumanism, genetic engineering, neuroenhancement and the notion of the posthumanism in general, represented by scholars such as Bruno Latour, Donna Haraway, Marshall McLuhan, Michel Foucault, Michel Serres, and others.
For the second issue “Quantified Selves | Statistic Bodies”, the newly founded Digital Culture & Society journal calls for further methodological and theoretical reflection on issues of technically generated knowledge about the body. Approaches may be rooted in (digital) media and cultural studies, as well as social sciences. Interdisciplinary contributions, for example, those from science and technology studies, are likewise welcome.
Paper proposals may relate to, but are not limited to, the following topics:
- Quantified Selves
- Wearable Technologies
- Personal Informatics
- Augmented Bodies
- Personal Analytics
- History of Self-examination and Auto-documentation
- Genetic Engineering
- Technologized Bodies and in-depth Visuality
- Body Engineering
We invite submissions which may react to and expand on the following questions of Quantified Self | Statistic Bodies
- Field Research and Case Studies
This issue of the journal „Digital Culture and Society“ examines phenomena of the “technologically constructed body” (Bolter/Grusin 2000: 238) with the help of digital technologies that are subsumed, discussed, practiced, and criticized using the key concept ‘Quantified Selves’. Datacizing technologies and biomedia blur the line between computer science and biology. And since sensor technology and visual analytics are becoming available for consumers they challenge the divide between expert knowledge and uncertified expertise, with the potential to alter the interrelationship of life science, society, and technology. This issue asks for investigations of self-measurement technologies and techniques from the perspective of different disciplines. What is the reason for the boom of self-measurement technologies and their dissemination in Social Media, computer games, and other entertainment contexts? What are the concrete strategies for the conduct of life opened up by the Quantified Self? How are tracking and tracing technologies transforming how we think about biological life, subject formation, or society?
- Methodological reflection
We invite contributions that address methodological issues of approaches focused on Quantified Selves. What are the methodological implications of such technological developments? How can researchers follow the assemblages of technology and bodies? May one use tools such as self-tracking technology in research in order to obtain empirical data? What ethical challenges do researchers face (e.g. related to the data enabled by new digital media technology and to the created visibility)?
- Conceptual/theoretical reflection
We invite papers that deal with processes of screening, measuring, and mapping of the body. The process of creating inscriptions is of interest here, and we invite reflections of the productive agency at work. What are the explicit and implicit consequences of Quantified Self on the constitution of the posthuman subject? What is the cultural significance of mapping bodies? What is the rationale of subjectivization that applies in QS? According to which principles do technologies act as mediators of normalization? What are the ethical matters that emerge with the dissemination of such technology? Are there defensive or subversive strategies against QS in general and QS abuse in particular (Nafus/Sherman 2014)?
Deadlines and contact information
- Initial abstracts (max. 300 words) and a short biographical note (max. 100 words) are due on: July 1, 2015
- Authors will be notified by July 19, 2015, whether they are invited to submit a full paper.
- Full papers are due on: October 1, 2015.
- This issue is edited by Pablo Abend and Mathias Fuchs.
Bolter, Jay D./Grusin, Richard (2000):
Remediation. Understanding new media, Cambridge.
Eggers, Dave (2013):
The Circle, New York.
Lumpton, Deborah (2014):
Self-Tracking Cultures: Towards a Sociology of Personal Informatics, in: proceedings of the Australian Computer-Human Interaction Special Interest Group (OzCHI) 2014, source.
More, Max (2013):
The Philosophy of Transhumanism, in: More, Max/Vita-More, Natasha (eds.): The Transhumanist Reader: Classical and Contemporary Essays on the Science, Technology, and Philosophy of the Human Future, Malden/Oxford, pp. 3-17.
Nafus, Dawn/Sherman, Jamie (2014):
This One Does Not Go Up to 11: The Quantified Self Movement as an Alternative Big Data Practice, in: International Journal of Communication 8, pp. 1784-1794.
Schütz, Alfred (1964):
Collected Papers II – Studies in Social Theory. Den Haag.
Thacker, Eugene (2004):