Research Seminar: Tracking Experience – Enhancing Lives? – University of Copenhagen

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Research Seminar: Tracking Experience – Enhancing Lives?

This 1,5 day research seminar about datafication discusses interdisciplinary research approaches to studying the digital infrastructures, communications and data traces of everyday, personal media use, from social media to self-tracking applications and services.

The invited talks represent a mix of communicative, sociological and informatics approaches to digital tracking of the self and the social, and bring these into dialogue with industry professionals. The aim is to discuss the relationship between technological infrastructures, data and people; data visualization and user experience; and the promise and perils of datafication in terms of enhancing social and personal life. The seminar will further address the kinds of insights that personal and social data can bring about for social science research, data regulation, and for the benefit of society at large.

The seminar is organised by Stine Lomborg, hosted by the Glocal digital infrastructures research group at CCC in conjunction with the Humanities PhD school at University of Copenhagen.

Maximum number of participants: 25. Registration is necessary.


Monday 24 April 2017

10.30 - 10.45 Welcome and introduction
10.45 - 12.15 Rob Procter, University of Warwick: Social Data Science: Data Science and Social Scientific Knowledge Production
The vast quantities of new and heterogeneous, naturally occurring social data now generated as people go about their daily activities have the potential to revolutionise our understanding of human behaviour at different scales and to promote new kinds of sociological enquiry. For some, this means that concerns about the marginality of empirical sociology have receded. While acknowledging the opportunities that these new forms of data present, I will argue that there are also significant methodological challenges that must be met if social data science is to succeed in delivering robust, credible and repeatable social scientific research.
12.15 - 13.00 Lunch
13.00 - 14.30 Katarzyna Wac, University of Copenhagen: From Quantified Self to Quality of Life
“Know Thyself” is a motto leading the Quantified Self (QS) movement, which at first originated as a ‘hobby project’ driven by self-discovery, and is now being leveraged in wellness and healthcare. QS practitioners rely on the wealth of digital data originating from wearables, applications, and self-reports that enable them to assess diverse domains of their daily life. That includes their physical state (e.g., mobility, steps), psychological state (e.g., mood), social interactions (e.g., a number of Facebook ‘likes’) and environmental context they are in (e.g., pollution). The World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes these four QS domains as contributing to individual’s Quality of Life (QoL), with health spanning across all the four domains. The collected QS data enables an individual’s state and behavioral patterns to be assessed through these different QoL domains, based on which individualized feedback can be provided, in turn enabling to improve the individual’s state and QoL. The evidence of causality between QS and QoL is still being established, as only data from limited cases and domains exist so far. In this talk, I will discuss the state of this evidence via a semi-systematic review of the exemplary QS practices documented in 609 QS practitioners’ talks, and a review of the 438 latest available personal wearable technologies enabling QS. I will discuss the challenges and opportunities for the QS to become an integral part of the future of healthcare and QoL-driven solutions. Some of the opportunities include using QS technologies as different types of affordances supporting the goal-oriented actions by the individual, in turn improving their QoL.
14.30 - 15.00 Break
15.00 - 16.30 Minna Ruckenstein, University of Helsinki: Living the metrics
Tens of thousands of devices and applications have been developed to help people to lead healthier lifestyles. This presentation argues that ‘the everyday metrics of life’ are not so methodical and systematic as health policies or the market might suggest. Framed this way, self-tracking practices are less occupied with ‘facts of life’ than translating and transforming life based on earlier experiences, cultural understandings and shared expectations. Paradoxically, new measurement devices and software generate qualitative insights, as people craft personalized theories of health and life. This also explains the failure of these devices: if they do not provide such insights, they are easily abandoned.

Tuesday 25 April 2017

09.30 - 10.30 Dorthe Brogård Kristensen, University of Southern Denmark: The self as a laboratory
In modern consumer culture the term optimization has been popularized and has entered the microphysics of everyday life; it now also refers to a mode of living, as a strategy of “making the most” of life, on a physical, economic, social, mental and spiritual level (Rose 2007). The goal is continuously to improve, enhance, manage, develop and transform the self. On this background the aim of this paper is explore the concept of optimization and analyse how the concept that originally emerged from a public and scientific domain increasingly characterize individual strategies for making the most of life. To this end we explore the optimization of the self in in practices of self-tracking (Ruckenstein 2014; Lupton 2014). The overall methodology of the empirical project involved ethnographic studies of experience and everyday practices from 2012-2016 among member of the Danish Quantified Self. 
10.30 - 12.00 Stefania Milan, University of Amsterdam: Questioning and subverting the tracking of experience: Distributed agency and alternative epistemologies from the ground up
Materialized in social media platforms, retail fidelity cards, or self-tracking devices, datafication has becomes a recurrent presence in the daily life of the ordinary user. People gradually acquire some degree of awareness of the fact that their whereabouts, feelings, and preferences are being monitored and tracked, and their interactions monetized and used to tell a story they often do not control. What’s more, datafication is progressively colonizing the imaginary, as it enters popular press and advertising alike, and mediates much of our experiencing-the-world. In so doing, datafication increasingly affects the way people make sense of their own experiences in relation to the state, the market and society at large. Using the notion of data activism as a heuristic tool to understand the interplay between datafication and political agency, this presentation explores the evolution of agency in relation to the datafied self. It looks at two distinct yet complementary instances in which agency is activated in the fringes of the datafied society: to resist the monitoring and surveillance that datafication brings about, and to appropriate and repurpose data in view of nurturing spaces of action and autonomy. I argue that both oppositional and affirmative uses of data and data infrastructure point to the emergence of alternative epistemologies that question the mainstream ways of knowing propelled by the positivistic ethos of datafication.
12.00 - 12.45 Lunch
12.45 - 13.30 Stine Lomborg, CCC: Datafication of the self
An emblematic and contemporary case of the datafication of everyday life, self-tracking via smartphone applications or wearables denotes people’s systematic use of digital media to track, monitor, reflect and act upon specific activities or issue of personal concern. This talk discusses users’ experiences of datafying themselves through the lens of communicative practice, arguing that self-tracking represents a unique case of communication – ‘auto-communication’ – that is, communication from, with, and to the self, and which need not involve other human actors. The informational and ritual relation to the self, established through self-tracking, is manifest in the interplay between aggregated tracking data as a quest for rational, numerical ‘truth’ that can be leveraged for improving and optimizing the future self, and in the sensations, pleasures and emotional sensibilities toward the self that the data input and output to the system also creates.
13.30 - 14.00 Coffee Break
14.00 - 16.00 Jan Ekstrøm, IBM: Futurising infrastructures (open lecture, CCC)
16.00 - 16.30 Wrap-up