IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - Winter 2013 - 29

platforms. The term "prosumption" has been used to
describe the mix of consumption and production that
characterizes digital media interactions [28]. Like blog
entries, comments on websites and social media platforms, micro-blogs, and status updates, collecting and
sharing data on oneself is a form of prosumption. Selftrackers are both the consumers of the devices they use
(whether these are wearable computers, websites, or
simply pen-and-paper records) and the producers of the
data that are collected via these devices. when they blog
about their data and what these reveal or participate in
quantified self meetings or conferences to share their
findings, they are engaging in the kind of participatory
democracy that is viewed as central to the web 2.0 age,
in which sharing of data and other forms of content is
valorized [29], [30].
Given the ease by which the data collected by selftracking can be shared with others via social and other
digital media, the quantified self as it is configured
via digital devices also incorporates performative elements. Sharing data has implications not only for how
users view and understand their own bodies but for
how other members of the quantified self community
view and respond to them. Many blog posts and comments on the Quantified Self website refer to the ways
in which quantified selfers seek to display their data,
often employing innovative visual displays in their
"show-and-tell" presentations. Quantifying the self, in
this context, is not merely about monitoring and measuring oneself. It is also centrally about communicating dimensions of the self using visual or other material
based on one's data, seeking to help others see and
understand the patterns in the data and perhaps make
connections to their own data in productive ways.

Reflexivity and the "Qualified Self"
Not only do self-trackers make choices about what data
about themselves are important to collect, they make
sense of and use data in highly specific and acculturated ways. They seek to make connections between
diverse sets of data: how diet, meditation, or caffeine
affect one's concentration, for example, or how one's
mood is influenced by exercise, sleep patterns, or geographical location, or the specific interactions of all of
these variables. As part of these processes, self-trackers
interpret "the numbers" they produce on themselves in
certain ways based on how they want the numbers to
represent them or underlying assumptions about what
they mean. Self-tracking is a practice that presents a
version of the self and the body that one most wants to
achieve. This is the qualitative or interpretive aspect of
self-quantification: the ways in which the numbers are
interpreted and given meaning. Here "the quantified
self" in effect is "the qualified self" [30].
So too, many participants in the Quantified Self
movement engage in reflexive practices concerning
IEEE TECHNOLOGY AND SOCIETY MAGAZINE

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wINTEr 2013

why they are collecting their data, what they plan to
do with it, how they can improve their methods, how it
feels to collect and use data and what the wider implications are for their concepts of selfhood and embodiment [32]. As wolf puts it in a comment on one of
the Quantified Self website's forums: "Our role is
not to 'sell' this technology to ourselves, but to use it
thoughtfully and share our knowledge, so that we add
reflective capacity - that is, some thoughtfulness - to
the systems we and others are making" [33].
As noted earlier, in recent news coverage the quantified
self has expanded to become a key term to encompass the
collection of data about individuals, whether deliberately,
involuntarily, reflexively, or automatically. In this sense,
we are all quantified selves, or "data doubles" [34]. It has
been contended, therefore, that those who identify with
and are part of the Quantified Self movement are different from those who are not actively engaging in collecting data on themselves. Quantified self adherents practice
self-tracking reflexively and deliberately: those who are
monitored by external surveillant technologies are part of
a different phenomenon [32].
Members of the Quantified Self movement seek to
control their "data selves" in the face of the vast amounts
of data that is collected on them, as this is part of the
ethos of the movement as it evolves. One of the cofounders of the Quantified Self movement, Kevin Kelly,
makes reference to this in a blog post, in which he argues
that everyone will begin to self-track because: "Almost
everything we do today generates data" and as a result,
"today capturing data about ourselves is often trivially
easy... Because tracking our data is so easy, more and
more folks are doing it." Kelly asserts that because so
large a volume of data is created on individuals, learning
how to interpret and use these data has become an important life skill and will become "the new normal" [35]. As
Kelly's words suggest, one dimension of the quantified
self movement is the notion that it can provide a means
of establishing control over the vast amounts of data that
are produced about oneself. The discourse of control in
quantified self discussions, therefore, is not only about
controlling one's body and one's self using data, but
exerting control over data themselves.

Dimensions of the Quantified Self
Phenomenon
It is evident that the quantified self phenomenon is merely
one dimension and expression of broader currents in contemporary societies, including conceptualizing the body as
a machine, the primacy of neoliberalism, and self-responsibilization, prosumption practices via digital media, the
desire for community, the imperative to control both the
unpredictable nature of one's body and the data that are
generated about oneself, and the valorizing of digital data.
The Quantified Self movement and the quantified self
concept are themselves evolving as new forms of data and
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Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - Winter 2013

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https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_september2023
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_june2023
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_march2023
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_december2022
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_september2022
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_june2022
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_march2022
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_december2021
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_september2021
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_june2021
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_march2021
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_december2020
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_september2020
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_june2020
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_march2020
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_december2019
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_september2019
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_june2019
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https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_december2018
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_september2018
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_june2018
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_march2018
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_winter2017
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_fall2017
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_summer2017
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_spring2017
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_winter2016
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_fall2016
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_summer2016
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https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_winter2015
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_fall2015
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https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_winter2014
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_fall2014
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https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_winter2013
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_fall2013
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