Data gone wild? The quantified self assemblage, technologies of the self and the value of data
‘Data gone wild?’
The quantified self assemblage,
technologies of the self and the value
Deborah Lupton, Faculty of Arts &
Design, University of Canberra
What is the quantified self?
• A movement: ‘The Quantified Self’
• A practice: ‘quantifying the self’
• Both involve self-tracking, lifelogging, life hacking:
closely monitoring elements of one’s life voluntarily
• We are all becoming quantified selves (including in
Some quotes from the PBS ‘Data gone wild’
• ‘Personally, like, my goal is to basically be – an
optimal human being in every aspect of my life’.
• ‘I can look down at my phone at any point in the day
and see, kind of, how stressed I am’.
• ‘You want to be your best self. You want to put your
best foot forward. And that’s what sharing your data
with a few other people does to you.’
The history of the quantified self
• Term first used in 2007 by Kevin Kelly and Gary Wolf
• The Quantified Self website established in 2008
• Now over 161 groups in 39 countries
• The QS term has gradually entered the broader
lexicon, particularly since 2012
• Term has now come to mean self-tracking and not
just membership of the QS movement
Key elements of QS
• The body as machine/cyborg body
• The body as a quantifiable object (‘emitting digital
• QS as ‘the science of the self’
• Digital technologies provide certainty and objectivity
(‘Computers don’t lie’)
Key elements of QS
• A neoliberalist approach that emphasises self
• The entrepreneurial self
• Self-tracking practices as technologies of the self
QS and data
• Data as superior form of knowledge
• Data as key to personal empowerment/self-
knowledge and improvement
• The importance of sharing one’s data with others
• ‘Show-and-tell’ important to the QS movement
• Methods of visualisation also important
• Bringing different datasets together
Issues of control & ownership of data
• Who owns one’s personal data?
• How can they use these data?
• QS adherents attempt to produce their own
customised data assemblages
• Creativity often involved to collect and represent
• Qsers in the vanguard of data activism, but from an
Where to from here?
• Can Qsers become part of a political movement
rather than navel-gazing?
• Can they challenge the corporatisation of big
data/data as surveillance?
• What are the limits of quantifying the self?
Data ‘going wild’
• Data liberated from the confining practices of
• Data hactivism – queering data
• Resistant practices of artists and designers