chapter  3
14 Pages

Self in the Loop: Bits, Patterns, and Pathways in the Quantified Self

ByNatasha Dow Schüll

This chapter draws on ethnographic research conducted between 2013 and 2017 at Quantified Self (QS) meet-ups in Boston and New York as well as three annual conferences. This chapter brackets the growing literature on how data tracking serves as a technology of power to explore how it can also serve as a technology of the self—as a means, a medium, and a cipher for human experience, self-understanding, and sense of agency. Sherman (2016) has described self-tracking as an aesthetic practice in which bits of the self, extracted and abstracted, become material for differently seeing and experiencing the self. Data tracking and time-series analysis "give a longer view of our power in time" by showing how our habits—"the things we're doing over and over"—add up to affect our lives in positive and negative ways. Scholars have reached for creative vocabulary to describe how the intensive datafication of life in Western liberal societies is altering selfhood.