Quantified self awareness

One of the useful paradoxes of the user’s position as a political subject is the contradictory impulse towards his artificial over-individuation and their ultimate pluralisation, with both participating differently in the politics of transparency. The quantified self movement is haunted by this contradiction.

At first, the intensity and granularity of a new informational mirror image convinces the user of his individuated coherency and stability as a subject. He is flattered by the singular beauty of his reflection (and this is why quantified self is so popular with those inspired by an X-Men reading of Atlas Shrugged). But as more data is added to the diagram that quantifies the outside world’s impact on his person – the health of the microbial biome in his gut, immediate and long-term environmental conditions, his various epidemiological contexts, and so on – the quality of everything that is ‘not him’ comes to overcome and overwhelm any notion of himself as a withdrawn and self-contained agent. The user is confronted with the existential lesson that at any point he is only the intersection of many streams.

The Black Stack, by Benjamin Bratton

First observation: Yep, that’s exactly what happened when I tried using a Nike+ wristband like ten years ago. Haven’t used a behaviour tracking thing since.

Second observation: Yep, that was probably a useful experience, and it taught me a lot.