The Quantified Self at Work
Call for contributions
The quantified self movement (QSM) refers to an emerging trend identified by a range of technological devices used for self-tracking. Examples include Microsoft’s wearable camera, the SenseCam, which provides the possibility to record autobiographical data and is worn on clothes. The Narrative Clip, formerly known as Memoto, is another miniscule life logging camera that users wear and which takes geotagged photos. Autom is a personal health lifestyle coach robot that provides customised responses based on data input about eating habits over time. Such technologies can be used for first-person digital ethnographies, lifelogging, and self-tracking of mental and physical activities as well as recording surroundings and actions also seen in the police force (Atkinson, 2014) and professional sports (Wade, 2014). Interest in such technologies is evident in health, fashion, and increasingly in workplaces.
Wearables and other types of tracking devices in the workplace places responsibility firmly into the hands of productive bodies, but simultaneously remove autonomy through transferring tracking to a device that produces extensive data used to inform management techniques. Further, the link between wearables and self-improvement/well-being is inseparable from productivity in the way these technologies are framed and marketed. Although this brings an unprecedented dimension to the potential for control at work many of these devices are self-imposed. Recently they are also becoming interconnected with labour processes and, whether through employer-mandated use or self-use, are intended to enhance ‘responsible’ performance in order to achieve the goal of accelerated productivity.
Recognition of the relationship between emotion, health and work is not new. The emotional labour thesis accurately identifies exploitative dimensions of service work (Hochschild, 1983). Subjectivities are already privatised while expressing dominant social norms through social media, self-branding, visible consumption and socially mandatory hedonism. Building on these arguments, quantification in the workplace through technology now demonstrates:
1) attempts to measure emotions and physical well-being so as to maximise productivity
2) the quantification of the connection between physical and emotional states by technological means
3) the ambivalence arising from a growing reliance on self-management of emotions and health
Here, we take very recent empirical cases of use of wearable and other quantifying technology as a starting point to understand implications for work and workplaces, whether workplaces and thus bodies are mobile or static, looking at theoretical and philosophical questions that arise with the emergence of these technologies as linked with work and labour, including questions of subjectivity, surveillance, productivity, resistance, emotional and affective labour, wellbeing, lifestyle, and the new world of work in contemporary neoliberal capitalism.
Journals we will pitch
We are currently approaching Theory Culture and Society; New Technology, Work and Employment; Body and Society
16th September 2014 – Initial call for contributors
15th October 2014 – Deadline for submission of proposed titles and abstracts. Please send to Chris Tillc.firstname.lastname@example.org<mailto:email@example.com><mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org> and Phoebe Moorep.email@example.com<mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org><mailto:email@example.com>
1st November 2014 – Decisions on submitting titles and abstracts
We will contact contributors separately and at that point send the proposal to these journals:
30th April 2014 – Deadline for submission of papers
We have to be fairly strict about this so please let us know asap if this isn’t possible so we can have a rethink.
30th July 2014 – Estimated return of first round of reviewer’s comments and revisions finalized.
Journals have specific methods for dealing with Special Issues so depending on which one we work with we will tell contributors the exact process.
Dec 2014/Jan 2015 – Estimated publication
Tracking data subjects: Digital self-tracking, networked labour and resistance.
This intervention will theoretically explore the strategies used to engage people in self-tracking of exercise and health through digital devices and applications, corporate wellness strategies and public health programmes and the potential resistances which they form. Self-tracking practices are increasingly widespread and are generating ever greater volumes of commercially valuable data which I have previously suggested approaches populations as a thermodynamic mass of potential energy. The techniques used to stimulate engagement will be compared and analysed in relation to their constitution of productive subjects through encouraging particular relations to the self. Further, it will be proposed that these practices are in the process of constituting networked relations of labour with the potential for new forms of collective resistance distinctive to the current era. Analytical categories used for the assessment of health and productivity data will be analysed for their role in subjectification which enables relations of control as well as resistance.
Existing work in this area:
Till C. Exercise as Labour: Quantified Self and the Transformation of Exercise into Labour. Societies. 2014; 4(3):446-462.
Blog Post ‘Are Google making money from your exercise data?: Exercise activity as digital labour’
Managing the self through quantification
According to ABI Research, more than 13 million wearable fitness tracking devices will be incorporated into employee wellness programs 2014-19 (Nield, 2014). BP, Amazon, Tesco, and Autodesk are leading this trend. Employers have increased focus on well-being in 2014, up from 33 per cent in 2012 (Paterson, 2013), and wearables are seen as a cutting edge method to improve employees’ well-being and health (Wilson, 2013b; Nield, 2014). A recent report shows that one employee can create more than 30GB of data per-week based on three wearable devices. ‘Scaled across an organisation, this is clearly a huge amount of information that needs to be captured, stored and analysed’ (Rackspace, 2014). So the incorporation of wearables in well-being projects simultaneous to big data accumulation has become a popular concept with business. This article takes these trends and beings to analyse what the implications are for workplace well-being programmes that include self-quantification, in particular using Bergson’s thesis on divisibility with reference to labour process theory.
Existing work in this area:
P. Moore (2014 in press) ‘Tracking Bodies, the Quantified Self and the Corporeal Turn’, in Kees van der Pijl (ed) The International Political Economy of Production, Volume for Handbooks of Research on International Political Economy series, eds. Benjamin J. Cohen and Matthew Watson (Cheltenham: Edward Elgar).
Interview with Imperica (2014) ‘Wearable Politics’ http://www.imperica.com/en/features/phoebe-moore-wearable-politics
Blog post ‘Self tracking and the Quantified Man’ http://phoebevmoore.wordpress.com/2013/07/28/self-tracking-and-the-quantified-man/