Inventing the Self


November 11th, 2013 by Shona Mari Sapphire · 1 Comment

The discussion this week on deploying technology to understand selfhood and experience make for an interesting comparison with the facebook manifesto from last week. Could Viegner’s seemingly tedious list-based work be conceived as quasi qualitative/quantitative data that tracks selfhood? After this week’s readings the truncated, segmented compositional structure of 2500 Things might be re-interpreted as less of an autobiography and more a series of points measured along a personal graph of experience – plotted during an HCI of one sort or another.

In their study of the human-technology relationship, McCarthy and Wright seek to discover meaningful applications in terms of various aspects of selfhood and experience.  They appraise facets of the people and technology interplay that include social and emotional experience without having to “reject the intellectual.” (McCarthy, Wright, 190). Their investigation of HCI, (Human Computer Interaction), questions the use of a cognitive approach which situates people in different contexts of thinking without regard for the qualitative aspects of both the person and the setting.  Their approach towards openness and “unfinalizability” seeks to expand upon social-theoretical work that centralizes identity and selfhood in the relationship between people and technology. These methods lean to “an orientation toward felt experience that emphasizes the ways in which people deal with routines.” (McCarthy, Wright, 191).

This way of using the routine of everyday life relates in some way with the motivation for quantitative self-knowledge. Gary Wolf said something like “the self is our operation center” and therefore tracking it can lead to more effective action in the world.  McCarthy and Wright talk about the need for technological design to be “dialogical” in order to deal with the ongoing becoming of the world- or a processual account of being. Designing technology in this manner is “an act of reframing experience in a way that points beyond the reframing” (196). In creating a mechanism for generating “self-knowledge” the Quantified Self movement attempts something similar. QS uses technology  “to weave together self-tracking tools with social networks and gaming, using the lessons of behavioral economics to keep users motivated enough to meet any health goals they’ve set for themselves” (Singer).

One other thing that I thought was interesting about the Quantified Self movement was the emergence of things like CureTogether, and other medical applications of gathering individual personal data to better understand maladies, on an experiential and perhaps practical level. I am not sure if this actually would make a difference in any sort of accurate way, given the likely unreliability of data aggregated from individual accounts.

In a cultural landscape of personal-detachment, something as basic as quantitative monitoring of everyday activities sounds like a logical tool for self-understanding. It has to start somewhere.

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1 response so far ↓

  • Adam Wagner // Nov 13th 2013 at 11:53 am

    I like the idea of Veigener’s 2500 being a quantified, recorded graph of experience. It makes me think of journals and diaries in a more interesting way. While technology is being developed to measure and record our physical selves, journals have long been around in a way to measure and record our narrative selves.

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