The dataistic self: unpacking personal analytics
Minna Ruckenstein (University of Helsinki)
Mika Pantzar (University of Helsinki )
Paper short abstract:
The paper explores personal analytics, specifically focusing on the Quantified Self -movement, as it is presented in the Wired-magazine. Four interrelated themes (transparency, self-optimization, feedback loop, and biohacking) are identified as formative for the epistemological claims made.
Paper long abstract:
A field of personal analytics has emerged around self-tracking practices, including the measuring and analysing physiological reactions, individuals' movement, and their activities. This paper explores personal analytics, specifically focusing on the Quantified Self -movement, as it is presented in the Wired-magazine. The dimensions of the QS movement are brought to the fore by relying on a Kuhnian disciplinary matrix. Four interrelated themes - transparency, self-optimization, feedback loop, and biohacking - are identified as formative for the epistemological claims made. The unpacking of the Wired discourse suggests that the QS-movement is a peculiar mix of theories of knowledge, ranging from behavioral economics, engineering, sports and data analysis. Together they rely on the notion of dataism, suggesting that at the heart of the QS-movement is a belief in data-driven everyday lives. Personal data is seen as suggestive and agentive, in the sense that it pushes forward new modes of relating and knowing. Consequently, a dataistic view to life advocates a shift in the way we approach ourselves, others, and everyday lives; self-knowledge becomes impossible without data. In this data-driven world, people together have less agency than self-tracking devices and data. Not coincidentally, the Wired-discourse is intimately aligned with the interests of the market: people need smart technology in order to be able to engage in self-discovery. Without technological devices, they would not be able to learn, or develop. Smartphone applications, monitoring devices and sensors that act as mediators and translators of knowledge in the new era of dataism.
The post human: what is it good for? Anthropological perspectives