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Cyborgology: What is The History of The Quantified Self a History of?
[from Part 1:]

"In the past few months, I’ve posted about two works of long-form scholarship on the Quantified Self: Debora Lupton’s The Quantified Self and Gina Neff and Dawn Nufus’s Self-Tracking. Neff recently edited a volume of essays on QS (Quantified: Biosensing Technologies in Everyday Life, MIT 2016), but I’d like to take a not-so-brief break from reviewing books to address an issue that has been on my mind recently. Most texts that I read about the Quantified Self (be they traditional scholarship or more informal) refer to a meeting in 2007 at the house of Kevin Kelly for the official start to the QS movement. And while, yes, the name “Quantified Self” was coined by Kelly and his colleague Gary Wolf (the former founded Wired, the latter was an editor for the magazine), the practice of self-tracking obviously goes back much further than 10 years. Still, most historical references to the practice often point to Sanctorius of Padua, who, per an oft-cited study by consultant Melanie Swan, “studied energy expenditure in living systems by tracking his weight versus food intake and elimination for 30 years in the 16th century.” Neff and Nufus cite Benjamin Franklin’s practice of keeping a daily record of his time use. These anecdotal histories, however, don’t give us much in terms of understanding what a history of the Quantified Self is actually a history of.

Briefly, what I would like to prove over the course of a few posts is that at the heart of QS are statistics, anthropometrics, and psychometrics. I recognize that it’s not terribly controversial to suggest that these three technologies (I hesitate to call them “fields” here because of how widely they can be applied), all developed over the course of the nineteenth century, are critical to the way that QS works. Good thing, then, that there is a second half to my argument: as I touched upon briefly in my [shameless plug alert] Theorizing the Web talk last week, these three technologies were also critical to the proliferation of eugenics, that pseudoscientific attempt at strengthening the whole of the human race by breeding out or killing off those deemed deficient.

I don’t think it’s very hard to see an analogous relationship between QS and eugenics: both movements are predicated on anthropometrics and psychometrics, comparisons against norms, and the categorization and classification of human bodies as a result of the use of statistical technologies. But an analogy only gets us so far in seeking to build a history. I don’t think we can just jump from Francis Galton’s ramblings at the turn of one century to Kevin Kelly’s at the turn of the next. So what I’m going to attempt here is a sort of Foucauldian genealogy—from what was left of eugenics after its [rightful, though perhaps not as complete as one would hope] marginalization in the 1940s through to QS and the multi-billion dollar industry the movement has inspired.

I hope you’ll stick around for the full ride—it’s going to take a a number of weeks. For now, let’s start with a brief introduction to that bastion of Western exceptionalism: the eugenics movement."

[from Part 2:

"Here we begin to see an awkward situation in our quest to draw a line from Galton and hard-line eugenics (we will differentiate between hardline and “reform” eugenics further on) to the quantified self movement. Behaviorism sits diametrically opposed to eugenics for a number of reasons. Firstly, it does not distinguish between human and animal beings—certainly a tenet to which Galton and his like would object, understanding that humans are the superior species and a hierarchy of greatness existing within that species as well. Secondly, behaviorism accepts that outside, environmental influences will change the psychology of a subject. In 1971, Skinner argued that “An experimental analysis shifts the determination of behavior from autonomous man to the environment—an environment responsible both for the evolution of the species and for the repertoire acquired by each member” (214). This stands in direct conflict with the eugenical ideal that physical and psychological makeup is determined by heredity. Indeed, the eugenicist Robert Yerkes, otherwise close with Watson, wholly rejected the behaviorist’s views (Hergenhahn 400). Tracing the quantified-self’s behaviorist and self-experimental roots, then, leaves us without a very strong connection to the ideologies driving eugenics. Still, using Pearson as a hint, there may be a better path to follow."]

[from Part 3:

"The history of Galton and eugenics, then, can be traced into the history of personality tests. Once again, we come up against an awkward transition—this time from personality tests into the Quantified Self. Certainly, shades of Galtonian psychometrics show themselves to be present in QS technologies—that is, the treatment of statistical datasets for the purpose of correlation and prediction. Galton’s word association tests strongly influenced the MBTI, a test that, much like Quantified Self projects, seeks to help a subject make the right decisions in their life, though not through traditional Galtonian statistical tools. The MMPI and 16PFQ are for psychological evaluative purposes. And while some work has been done to suggest that “mental wellness” can be improved through self-tracking (see Kelley et al., Wolf 2009), much of the self-tracking ethos is based on factors that can be adjusted in order to see a correlative change in the subject (Wolf 2009). That is, by tracking my happiness on a daily basis against the amount of coffee I drink or the places I go, then I am acknowledging an environmental approach and declaring that my current psychological state is not set by my genealogy. A gap, then, between Galtonian personality tests and QS."]

[from Part 4 (Finale):

"What is the history of the quantified self a history of? One could point to technological advances in circuitry miniaturization or in big data collection and processing. The proprietary and patented nature of the majority of QS devices precludes certain types of inquiry into their invention and proliferation. But it is not difficult to identify one of QS’s most critical underlying tenets: self-tracking for the purpose of self-improvement through the identification of behavioral and environmental variables critical to one’s physical and psychological makeup. Recognizing the importance of this premise to QS allows us to trace back through the scientific fields which have strongly influenced the QS movement—from both a consumer and product standpoint. Doing so, however, reveals a seeming incommensurability between an otherwise analogous pair: QS and eugenics. A eugenical emphasis on heredity sits in direct conflict to a self-tracker’s belief that a focus on environmental factors could change one’s life for the better—even while both are predicated on statistical analysis, both purport to improve the human stock, and both, as argued by Dale Carrico, make assertions towards what is a “normal” human.

A more complicated relationship between the two is revealed upon attempting this genealogical connection. What I have outlined over the past few weeks is, I hope, only the beginning of such a project. I chose not to produce a rhetorical analysis of the visual and textual language of efficiency in both movements—from that utilized by the likes of Frederick Taylor and his eugenicist protégés, the Gilbreths, to what Christina Cogdell calls “Biological Efficiency and Streamline Design” in her work, Eugenic Design, and into a deep trove of rhetoric around efficiency utilized by market-available QS device marketers. Nor did I aim to produce an exhaustive bibliographic lineage. I did, however, seek to use the strong sense of self-experimentation in QS to work backwards towards the presence of behaviorism in early-twentieth century eugenical rhetoric. Then, moving in the opposite direction, I tracked the proliferation of Galtonian psychometrics into mid-century personality test development and eventually into the risk-management goals of the neoliberal surveillance state. I hope that what I have argued will lead to a more in-depth investigation into each step along this homological relationship. In the grander scheme, I see this project as part of a critical interrogation into the Quantified Self. By throwing into sharp relief the linkages between eugenics and QS, I seek to encourage resistance to fetishizing the latter’s technologies and their output, as well as the potential for meaningful change via those technologies."]
gabischaffzin  quantifiedself  2017  kevinkelly  garywolf  eugenics  anthropometrics  psychometrics  measurement  statistics  heredity  francisgalton  charlesdarwin  adolphequetelet  normal  psychology  pernilsroll-hansen  michelfoucault  majianadesan  self-regulation  marginalization  anthropology  technology  data  personality  henryfairfieldosborn  moralbehaviorism  behaviorism  williamepstein  mitchelldean  neoliberalism  containment  risk  riskassessment  freedom  rehabilitation  responsibility  obligation  dalecarrico  fredericktaylor  christinacogdell  surveillance  nikolasrose  myers-briggs  mbti  katherinebriggs  isabelbriggsmeyers  bellcurve  emilkraepelin  charlesspearman  rymondcattell  personalitytests  allenneuringer  microsoft  self-experimentation  gamification  deborahlupton  johnwatson  robertyerkes  ginaneff  dawnnufus  self-tracking  melanieswan  benjaminfranklin  recordkeeping  foucault 
may 2017 by robertogreco
Meme Documentation
""That’s why I love Meme Documentation so much. Because it’s made for Tumblr users by Tumblr users.… And I think that is super important, that communities should be self-archiving. It’s your local library. Every community on the internet needs a local library to go to and find their own history. Know Your Meme is amazing, but it’s also the Library of Congress, and they’re not going to know what this tiny town in Internet Land is doing. I want to stress the importance of communities to realize that everything is fleeting on the internet, and something can get deleted really quickly, and you lose a whole thread of whatever history you’re looking at."

— shoutout to meme librarian Amanda Brennan (@continuants) for mentioning Meme Documentation in an interview on the podcast @fansplaining"

[via: ]
amandabrennan  memes  knowyourmeme  2015  tumblr  internet  web  fleeting  documentation  librarians  archiving  history  recordkeeping  ephemerality  archives  online  socialmedia  ephemeral 
december 2015 by robertogreco
Editing the Past | Swell Content
"I’m looking into ways of making my posts living, breathing things. I don’t feel like I have any of the answers yet, so I’m compiling some questions about the effects of editing the past.

Looking at the archive…

**As an evolution of feelings**

What’s the best way to update old blog posts? Does my audience care if I’ve changed the meaning of something from 2011 [ ] or simply removed the harshness of my tone? What about the fact that I often write to get it halfway there (or even 5% there), just to help myself understand my feelings?

What if my feelings turn inside out? What if I want to delete something, because it’s just plain bad?

Do I get to decide what’s important as the author? Why? Or do my readers get to decide with traffic, comments, or attention?

Is frequency important, or is all of this an exhaustive attempt at making order out of chaos? [ ] Maybe I should stop right now.

**As a written record**

What are the ethics of deleting something? Or hiding it? What if I just shove it in a corner or an armpit, only to be found by Google or someone with a link? Why bother keeping it there, if it’s not worth sharing openly?

Is it an archive if I don’t preserve my words as they were originally posted? Or does it break the web to think anything should be static for more than a month or two? Do we breathe here in minutes, months, or milliseconds?

**As a resource**

Is this helpful if it’s not updated? Should I announce every change I make, or put notes within each article? Do I get to summarize my own summaries, or is there a more programmatic way of showing changes, like a differential or commit?

Should I notify anyone of anything? Or is it annoying and uninteresting to know about teeny changes on a personal site? But isn’t everything connected? Even if my opinions are small and unsharpened, isn’t that the point of sharing them and working on them over a lifetime?"

[Recorded here ;]
archives  archiving  nicolejones  2013  addendums  changes  history  longnow  past  future  writing  sharing  web  digital  internet  personalarchives  evolution  recordkeeping  time  memory  persistence  change  nicolefenton 
february 2013 by robertogreco
Institutional memory and reverse smuggling | wrttn
"At the end of the project someone should've been commissioned to write a book, "What This Goddamn Plant Is: And, How It Works". That book is effectively being written now, only by archaeologists."
engineering  documentation  process  archeology  knowledge  via:straup  institutionalmemory  memory  legacy  tcsnmy  lcproject  2011  via:blech  scale  scaling  bureaucracy  archaeology  reversesmuggling  institutionalarchaeology  institutions  business  reverse  culture  values  posterity  corporateespionage  reversecorporateespionage  organizations  recordkeeping  companies  management  sharing  via:tealtan 
december 2011 by robertogreco
Practical Tips for Surviving Academic Life (Part One: The Early Years) - Brainstorm - The Chronicle of Higher Education
"2. Write down every idea you have, even if you suspect it might never be useful. Most won’t be, but some? Some will be more valuable than you might dream.

3. Contact people whose work you admire. Do this not to impress them, but instead to let them know them why you find their work important. Why not tell someone who you’re reading at the moment—someone whose work engages you on a serious level—that you’re enjoying (or at least provoked by) their research and perspective?…

4. Keep in touch with smart people and funny people. You’ll need them in your life no matter what they—or you—end up doing. Smart and funny people make even the worst day better. They are the best reward for survival.

5. Keep good notes. Keep track of the titles, authors, and dates of those books, articles, movies (or “films” if you’re that sort), songs, poems, art pieces, reviews—of anything that engages you—because otherwise you’ll spend ridiculous amounts of time trying to track them down."
learning  networkedlearning  networking  notetaking  cv  academia  via:lukeneff  admiration  remembering  memory  recordkeeping  people  howto  advice  work  sharing  etiquette 
april 2011 by robertogreco
Scribes Thriving As Ghostwriters In Mexico City - Sun Sentinel
"People have been coming for years to the public scribes of Santo Domingo Colonnade with the stuff of their lives -- love, disillusionment, longing and commerce.

In times gone by, the scribes brought out sharpened quills and ink to record the sentiments of Mexico City`s timid, illiterate or harried. More recently, they set up their typewriters.

Although the tools have changed, the scribes still reduce the dramas of life to paper with style and compassion for those unable to put their feelings into writing.

Since Spanish Colonial rule in the 1850s, about 25 scribes have been sheltered under a colonnade near Santo Domingo Church.

Hipolito Ortiz, who has practiced the trade for half his 50 years, said business is flourishing but is not what it used to be. The education level has risen in Mexico, meaning many lovers, children or businessmen can write their own missives. In addition, the telephone has opened the possiblility of direct communication."

[via: ]

[See also: “The disappearing tribe of India's letter writers” ]
writing  mexicodf  mexico  history  recordkeeping  transcription  typewriters  writinginpublic  services  communication  memory  literacy  illiteracy  letters  letterwriting  df  mexicocity 
may 2010 by robertogreco
Week 231 – Blog – BERG
"An active blog is like a green activity light in instant messaging. For those of us who aren’t habitual bloggers, week notes help the process become regular. But more than that, companies are so often opaque. I write here whatever’s going on and whatever’s on my mind, and make connections I didn’t expect with readers I didn’t know I had. Little doors open to empathy. Running a small company is both hard and the best thing in the world. These week notes act as a kind of diary of reflections for me – I find writing them personally helpful – but they also trigger conversations with friends in similar situations about what they’ve seen before and what they’ve learned. I’d love for more companies and studios like us to keep week notes. I learn a lot, both writing and reading them, and it satisfies my nosiness as to what’s actually going on."
writing  berg  berglondon  diaries  reflection  blogs  blogging  recordkeeping  memory  sharing  business  tcsnmy 
november 2009 by robertogreco
GeekDad Review: Maker's Notebook Justifies Its Price | Geekdad from
"So can it truly be worth $20 [$13 on Amazon]? Yes, and here's why: The quality of paper and binding are far superior than any grocery store notebook. Composition books aren't made to last 20 years, this is. With a flat spine you can keep track of content
notebooks  srg  edg  notetaking  recordkeeping 
june 2008 by robertogreco
Crafting Beading Scrapbooking Embroidery Knitting Craft Inventory Management System - CraftMemo
"CraftMemo is a flexible, easy-to-use record keeping & management system designed specially to cater for craft enthusiasts."
business  projectmanagement  tools  productivity  organization  glvo  etsy  craft  diy  software  recordkeeping 
september 2007 by robertogreco

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