Forming Persona through metrics: Can we think freely in the shadow of our data?

Suneel Jethani, Nadine Raydan

Abstract


The use of wearable biosensors to track many aspects of life has been received with great enthusiasm for their potential to enhance conceptions of self. The self-tracker is framed as a heroic figure who is insightful, actualised, virtuous, and in control. With a persistent imperative to manage one’s life, experimentation, active intervention (a health kick, diet or detox), preventative self monitoring or the conscious foregrounding of habits are constructed as insightful practices of self betterment. Such conditions fix individuals to symbolic discourses, permissions, limits and thresholds, which prefigure and enclose energies directed towards the formation of self-knowledge and conception of selfhood. In this paper we critically explore persona-formation through the material and technically mediated production of personal metrics which we argue are aligned to externally calibrated goals, thresholds, norms and expectations. Further, we suggest, these measures exhibit a complex relation of knowledge production (n=1) and a reabsorption of persona into the technical, ideological and institutional structures giving rise to the ontologies that make such data meaningful (n=all). We suggest that political resistance in self-tracking and their associated cultures of technical innovation produce epistemologies of persona that cannot be divorced from the technocratic logic of ‘saturated’and ‘networked’conceptions of self. We conclude with the assertion that although self-tracking does produce emancipatory conceptions of personhood they are caught up in a ‘neoliberal moment’which is shaping technical affordances, interfaces, business models, routes to innovation and policy relating to the use and re-use of personal data.


Keywords


Quantified Self,

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.21153/ps2015vol1no1art451

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