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Through a complete referential of the quantified self vocabulary, its project and its participant, the task is to unveil the technological processes in the quantified self movement and look in the ways by which it systematically organises a new, social reference, a new body language ; or otherwise formulated : Can quantified self as a cultural technique, a Kulturtechniken, impact the social sense of self integrity.

The research will examine uses and modalities of social integrations they are most of the time linked to an online platform from different sources :

  • Commercial platforms such as the sport gear.
  • Mobile applications that use embedded sensory devices.
  • Social platforms as the quantified self .

It will look at the uses of those features and the choices but mostly it will examine the vocabulary and social patterns that drive those exchanges and the way it formats a relation to the body.


It appears that a Cultural Technique exists way beyond it is understood as such and formalised(Macho, 2003: 179) ; so does Quantified self as a self emerging movement. It is very much connected to other DIY movements that exists in a dynamic social structure powered by technology, it does not reflect on its situation as a constructed social entity, it stays far from any understanding of its process as a media technology. The project aims to analyse the Quantified Self movement both from the perceptual implications of such practices, ie stating the ways by which this digital props transforms the continuous sense of our embodiment that is then after confronted to a set of digital discreet data and spread sheet, further how socially also as people unite around this exchange of data, a threshold is overcome in the notion of personal intimacy, from personal to collective a threshold has been overcomed in the notion of our personal embodiment. The issue is not only to understand this highly narcissistic process but how this process by becoming social undermines our own sense of self. It appears very clearly that design has an important role to play by setting the frame for data interpretation it seems important also to ask ourselves what are the issues at stake in the rise of such a social body network the questions are not only How will we make sense of large personal data sets? How will we control and contribute to those data sets? What are the business models for users profiting from their data?

However, such a notion of active participation is implicated with the mainstream discourses of efficiency, in which active participation becomes the necessary practical utilization of information potential, and the praised ‘personalization’ becomes a form of self-regulation and efficiency compliance. As such, users are indeed becoming ‘active,’ mobilized to work towards optimization and normalization of the system, while not exactly engaged as active participants in actual negotiation and construction of spatiality.

and ...

Sensing technology is becoming widely spread and largely contributes to a new aesthetics and a different representation of body through its data. These body related digital measures aren't individual endeavors, they take place on privately owned online social platforms that are organizing new representations through the use of abstract data, mapping and charts. This project aims to define the contextual possibilities and the conditions for community based health platforms, that would benefit from grassroot feminist networks.

As the posthuman body historically maps into the virtual space, encompassing both networked participation and measurements, Marie Flanagan has formulated a critique of 'Digibodies', expressing that they are constructed on a fixed, archaic social structure (Flanagan 2003). This paper will argue that in very much the same way, self quantification idealises participation on health procedures and reproduces inherent social constrictions. Abstract mapping of body data works towards an ideal representation by and through data, it aims to beset all external electronic data that we produce (Zeller 2013), this absolutist position strongly idealizes quantification tools and contributes to elude basic social issues. As Stamatia Portanova moving without a body is a contemporary abstract structure of creative body interrelations (Portanova 2013)

Further more Marina Levina analyses that health 2.0 companies exploit feminist narratives to facilitate female participation in its services (Levina 2012) Indeed, empowerment of the patient can be traced to social revolution, concomitant to the rise of feminist discourse. The Boston Women’s Health Book Collective (1973) or Vancouver Women's Health Collective(1971), brought the Civil Rights movement to the entire doctor-patient relationship. Mariana Valverde argues women have developed truth telling practices that help them to support each other and assure knowledge transfer.(Valverde 2004) However, contrary to this original movement, participation and empowerment in the health monitoring processes seem to strongly correlate to an already set agenda of both capitalist organization and abstract scientific domination. Marina Levina explains that participation most often implies “data donation” (Levina 2012).

For example, Ginger.io proposes to relate your health tracking information to health care providers such as doctor or insurance companies; Iodine.com is a social platform that gives feedback on medicine and medical brands with both precise and subjective criteria such as: is it a hassle? Most importantly “data donation” disconnects data from community and context. Data becomes standard useable in information economy. One can consider this division process in its consequences: alienation and exploitation in the terms presented by Simon Fuchs analysis of new digital labor (Fuchs 2014); and we might ask if, by decomposing individual knowledge into sets of usable information, the person whom was once the repository of all intimacy becomes a transferable character only linked to a referenced set of data. (Coons 2014). This quest for a holistic representation of body realm through digital measurement is inscribed in a medical history that has been tearing down personal knowledge and social support. Subrosa art collective has eagerly portrayed many of those losses in the feminine relation to technology and health. Through provocative performances, they have confronted us to the effective passation of knowledge to a sometime intrusive scientific community (smartmoms 2000) and or loss of agency in some essential moments of our lifes such as reproduction (expo emmagenics 2001)

In quantified self procedures privacy issues are at stake, however in medical and in health data the easily retraceable nature of information obviates encryption as a complete solution to privacy protection. (Rosenblat 2014) (Sweeney 2000, 2013), Latania Sweeney presents the value of keeping a personal health record bank (Sweeney, Yasnoff, Shortlife, 2013), Salvatore Iaconesi1 made choices to independently share information in an individually chosen format; embeded in a personal narrative, health data still correlates to human endeavor and social facts.

The terrain of cyberfeminism is one that has long been set to promote the idea of virtual kinship Blair, Gajjala, and Tulley (2009) And my argument is that through a valorisation of existing women networks, including feminist hackerspaces it would be possible to find the seeds (Keimformen) of alternative participative health networks. It is important to engage with the materiality of the collective measurements through sports and health platforms drawing from my previous experience in situated and participative networks. Feminist networks do provide a bed for a health sharing platform based on a web of trust. I will enquire over different feminist hackerspaces and health center to set the criterias of a possible feminist health sharing platform clearly define the needs possibilities hosting conditions of such a project. Victoria Pitts says that the usage of the Internet is embeded into community sharing (Pitts 2004) and she already then demonstrates that the sole concept of participation in online communities does not make for a fair and productive social exchange. From previous research on participation and social platforms it appears that successful online exchanges are hybrid structures that can be based on existing social networks leading through effective engagement to a powerful networked structure (Roussel 2014)

Drawing on personal experience though participative collective sensing projects (interac wearing 2008) (Walker 2014) I can argue for the value of collective experimentation with sensing devices. This research is based on the Quantified Gaming project that is currently happening in various art centers and feminist hackerspaces. If the main discourses around quantification targets very practical usages, such as loosing weight and monitoring one's sleep we wonder how much this quantified self data can track the specificities of oneself. We are somehow seeking hidden information from our inner bodies some knowledge that previously was considered magic and not accessible; How about measuring one's exceptionally distorted walking path, measuring one's immobility or portraying my taste of a depressive state, or the reality of my overweight, or more extreme practices measuring one's change of sex, measuring one's sickness what happens when organs stop working. The game is about seeking to give a new place to those mysteries what does it mean to have 88% efficiency in sleep in what world does it allows you to enter, and how about me who has stayed up all night in front of my computer, how do I relate to your imaginary world, maybe I can spend my night to feed your imagination in a ghost like manner implementing new universes into your lively tracking data.

In this context Gamification sets out a innovative research structure focusing making apparent a complete new set of rules and setting the ground for a collaborative organisation of personal quantified self data. This process suggests to explore the possibility and the richness of grassroot networks to organise fruitfull health platforms that would actively complement existing social platforms.

dev/quantified_self_as_a_research_proposal.txt · Last modified: 2015/04/25 13:11 by olm-e
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