The Quantified Self Research Network (QS, Self-Tracking and Wearable Computing)

The first meeting of the Quantified Self Research Network took place last week at the University Leeds. This was established by myself and Chris Till in order to help encourage interdisciplinary dialogue amongst people working on different aspects of Quantified Self. Our assumption was that there were a lotof people who intended to work on this topic in the near future and that it’s a topic of the sort that would produce some really rewarding and interesting discussions if people assembled in a shared space. Both seemed to be the case, with the event attracting a lot of interest despite being organised at short notice at a fairly inopportune time of year and, perhaps more importantly, turning out to be a really interesting and productive day which all present seemed to enjoy. Here’s our description of the context and aims of the network:

In the last few years there has been a significant increase in public and academic interest in the use of devices or techniques for the accumulation, aggregation and analysis of personal data. Apps for mobile phones such asTrack My Run and body tracking devices such as JawboneFitbit and Nike’s Fuelband have perhaps garnered the widest attention with their ability to passively collect data on everyday activities which can then be analysed and shared with others. There is, however, more to quantified self than the mainstream media picture of obsessive “techies”. Many people engaged in “life logging” collate data on mood and experiences often without a direct quantitative element. While a relatively formalised arm of the quantified self movement has formed, through the Quantified Self group based in San Francisco, not everyone involved in quantified self activities is affiliated with Quantified Self. This formalised movement, as well as the broader cluster of practices and orientations which are coalescing within and beyond it, point to  commercial and political connections which have yet to be fully explored.

The  Quantified Self research network will explore the broad implications of this loose set of practical and ethical approaches to understanding bodies, psyches and everyday practices. While we are interested in exploring the practices and techniques of assessment we think it is equally important to understand the often novel ways in which the diverse types of analysis enable new forms of reflecting on the embodied self and relations with others. We hope to encourage interdisciplinary dialogue around this multitude of emerging issues, in the belief that historical, philosophical, cultural, sociological, psychology, economic, technological and political approaches all have a role to play in understanding this fascinating trend.

The network aims to:

  • Build network of scholars interested in qs
  • Explore possibilities for further research and collaborations
  • Share ideas about substantive issues
  • Support access and development of postgraduate and early career researchers
  • Develop sociological approaches to understanding qs
  • Identify potential for disciplinary collaborations
  • Develop relations with interested parties beyond  the academy
  • Developing quantifiedselfresearch.org as an online resource

We’re planning some more activities in the not too distant future: another work in progress seminar early in 2014 and a proposed session at the British Sociological Association’s 2014 conference in Leeds. If you’d like to keep in touch with what we’re doing, our new website is now online at quantifiedselfresearch.org – we’re still not 100% sure what this will turn out to be yet. It would be great if it can perhaps be a place for discussion (which requires people to submit guest blogs and anyone working in this area who wants an account to post themselves is welcome to one) but even if not it will hopefully be a useful online resources where we can curate announcements, videocasts/podcasts and other resources.

If you’d like to join the network the best thing to do at this stage is to subscribe to the blog via e-mail – the form to do so is at the bottom of the website at quantifiedselfresearch.org – we won’t be posting particularly frequently at this stage and it will mean you’re informed about everything we’re doing.


Categories: Digital Sociology

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