There’s so much good stuff at 4S. Wish I had the resources to go, in spite of the fact it’s not hugely important to anything I’m doing in a direct sense:

We welcome submissions to our open track on ‘everyday analytics’ at 4S/EASST, Barcelona, 2016

Track convenors: Kate Weiner, Catherine Will, Minna Ruckenstein, Christopher Till and Flis Henwood,

Everyday analytics: The politics and practices of self-monitoring
Self-monitoring is a pervasive part of contemporary life, entwined in many spheres of the everyday, for example work, health, fitness, energy consumption, finance. The analysis of these activities, once the preserve of scientific, professional and technology experts, is expanding, as the scanning, recording, memorising and tracking of daily life using digital technologies becomes increasingly possible.  Yet self-monitoring involves a variety of technologies and techniques, some digital some considerably more mundane. Tracking may be voluntaristic, but may be encouraged, promoted or required through corporate and governmental initiatives – and is of interest to numerous commercial sectors. While the term ‘self-monitoring’ invokes the image of an individual tracker, it may involve a variety of collectives, for sharing data and experiences and creating collective knowledge.  Collectives may operate at more local levels too, as people and things mediate in the everyday work of tracking.

We invite papers that explore everyday analytics, self-tracking practices and its different meaning: Who and what is involved? What emotions, projects and relationships are important in these practices?  How is data interpreted? How and when does data flow where and how does it get stuck?  When and how does self-tracking become embedded and normalised in everyday life? What is the scope for resistance, rejection or exclusion? We expect that the papers will contribute to either theoretical or methodological developments relating to self-tracking in practice, investigating how it promotes new forms of individuality, sociality, politics and markets – or moments when it fails to engage people.

Abstracts should be submitted at http://www.nomadit.co.uk/easst/easst_4s2016/panels.php5?PanelID=4026

Conference website: http://www.sts2016bcn.org/

Deadline for abstract submissions: 21 February 2016

If you have any questions about the track, please feel free to contact us

Kate Weiner – k.weiner@sheffield.ac.uk

Catherine Will – c.will@sussex.ac.uk

Minna Ruckenstein – minna.ruckenstein@helsinki.fi,

Chris Till – C.Till@leedsbeckett.ac.uk,

Flis Henwood – F.Henwood@brighton.ac.uk

From The New Ruthless Economy, by Simon Head, loc 1209. I wonder what ‘innovations’ have emerged in the ten years since this was book was published?

There are at least five distinct types of monitoring software. First, there are what might be called “classic” monitoring products, software that embodies the Taylorist preoccupation with timing and measurement: How long do agents take to answer a call? How long does the call last? How long does the agent take to “wrap up” the call by completing clerical tasks that may have arisen in the course of the call? Second, there are “quality-monitoring” products-software that eases the manager’s task of measuring the agent’s “soft skills”-his warmth and politeness, and whether his demeanor has strengthened ties of intimacy and loyalty between company and customer. Third, there are what might be called “total monitoring” products, software that simultaneously multaneously monitors what is happening on the agent’s screen and what the agent is saying on the telephone. With this “total monitoring,” it is possible to know whether the agent is following a prescribed script and accurately relaying the information and recommendations provided by product databases. Fourth, there is software that monitors Internet and E-mail “conversations” between agent and customer, and which can, if necessary, integrate this monitoring with the parallel monitoring of telephone conversations. Fifth, there are the digital technologies that are embodied in many of these monitoring products and that have made possible this forward leap in the scope and intensity of monitoring.

Background to the video here. I have to admit that I’d assumed this sort of thing was at least a decade away. What’s so creepy about this (beyond “because of this your feeling of safety increased”) is how ‘joined up’ the proposed monitoring is. Rather than piecemeal monitoring that gradually gets joined up in response to instrumental concerns, this company is proposing total monitoring from the outset because of the kinds of interventions it can facilitate.

This post by Zeynep Tufekci on her Medium site is the best thing I’ve read yet about the recent facebook controversy.

I’m struck by how this kind of power can be seen as no big deal. Large corporations exist to sell us things, and to impose their interests, and I don’t understand why we as the research/academic community should just think that’s totally fine, or resign to it as “the world we live in”. That is the key strength of independent academia: we can speak up in spite of corporate or government interests.

To me, this resignation to online corporate power is a troubling attitude because these large corporations (and governments and political campaigns) now have new tools and stealth methods to quietly model our personality, our vulnerabilities, identify our networks, and effectively nudge and shape our ideas, desires and dreams. These tools are new, this power is new and evolving. It’s exactly the time to speak up!

That is one of the biggest shifts in power between people and big institutions, perhaps the biggest one yet of 21st century. This shift, in my view, is just as important as the fact that we, the people, can now speak to one another directly and horizontally.

https://medium.com/message/engineering-the-public-289c91390225

This strikes me as an important fault line, in so far as a superficial difference (i.e. whether or not this bothers you) tracks much broader divergences in political orientation which are likely to become more pronounced as these trends develop over time. However the risk is that this one contentious study becomes a distraction because, as Tufekci points out, this is something Facebook does on a daily basis. What could be lost here is a sense of the political apparatus coming into being and its broader implications:

I identify this model of control as a Gramscian model of social control: one in which we are effectively micro-nudged into “desired behavior” as a means of societal control. Seduction, rather than fear and coercion are the currency, and as such, they are a lot more effective. (Yes, short of deep totalitarianism, legitimacy, consent and acquiescence are stronger models of control than fear and torture—there are things you cannot do well in a society defined by fear, and running a nicely-oiled capitalist market economy is one of them).

The secret truth of power of broadcast is that while very effective in restricting limits of acceptable public speech, it was never that good at motivating people individually. Political and ad campaigns suffered from having to live with “broad profiles” which never really fit anyone. What’s a soccer mom but a general category that hides great variation?

With new mix of big data and powerful, oligopolistic platforms (like Facebook) all that is solved, to some degree.

Today, more and more, not only can corporations target you directly, they can model you directly and stealthily. They can figure out answers to questions they have never posed to you, and answers that you do not have any idea they have. Modeling means having answers without making it known you are asking, or having the target know that you know. This is a great information asymmetry, and combined with the behavioral applied science used increasingly by industry, political campaigns and corporations, and the ability to easily conduct random experiments (the A/B test of the said Facebook paper), it is clear that the powerful have increasingly more ways to engineer the public, and this is true for Facebook, this is true for presidential campaigns, this is true for other large actors: big corporations and governments. (And, in fact, a study published in Nature, dissected at my peer-reviewed paper linked below shows that Facebook can alter voting patterns, and another study shows Facebook likes can be used to pretty accurately model your personality according to established psychology measures).