Open Panel: Quantifying Affect and Emotion, Past and Present

Open Panel: Quantifying Affect and Emotion, Past and Present
Annual Meeting of the Society for the Social Studies of Science (4S), August 20-23 2014, Buenos Aires, Argentina

In an age of “Big Data,” the enumeration of feelings has become big business. Increasingly sophisticated facial recognition algorithms, techniques of textual sentiment analysis, and sensors able to monitor gait and body language have all made emotion increasingly legible as digital code and algorithmic input.

Yet the entanglement of feelings with enumeration is not new – the tracking and quantification of emotion has been a feature of techno-scientific discourse since the early 19th century. Affect and emotion have long been subject to what historian of medicine Otniel Dror terms “discoursing in numbers”: the translation and integration of feeling into the realms of the calculable and predictable.

This open panel aims to bring together scholars working on the history of techniques and technologies for enumerating affect and emotion with those exploring contemporary digital modes of emotional tracking and quantification. The panel welcomes papers from a wide range of disciplines, particularly work that combines historical and contemporary sites of analysis. Possible panel themes and topics include, but are not limited to:

By what means have feelings been variously quantified, categorized, classified and integrated into numerical discourses throughout history?
How are contemporary practices of emotional quantification and tracking descended from or in contrast to historical examples of these techniques?
When and where have the particularities of changing scientific practice shaped technical and popular understandings of feeling, both historically and in the present?
In what ways are existing regimes of scientific knowledge around emotion being revised in view of new techno-scientific developments, and how are these epistemic shifts changing our personal understanding of emotion itself?
How are quotidian practices of daily self-tracking and the idea of the “quantified self” shaping contemporary views of feeling and affect?

Please submit a paper abstract (250 words) electronically via the conference website: Please also forward a copy of the abstract to

The deadline for submitting your abstract is February 28, 2014. Accepted authors will be notified by April 1, 2014.

For further information, please contact Luke Stark at

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