The Self, in Numbers: Subjectivity, the ‘Quantified Self,’ and Bodies under Control
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This thesis explores the effect that modern self-surveillance technologies have on subjectivity and the ways in which bodies are regulated by modern institutional power, while addressing several branches of existing scholarship and criticism on this subject matter. First, a brief overview of a very recent self-surveillance movement (the Quantified Self) is provided, then situated in relation to selected moments of key evolutions in the history of self-tracking practices. In so doing, this thesis charts the increasing formalization of methodology and focus on physicality that has produced modern data-based approaches, while arguing that these new forms in fact create more agency and autonomy for individual users. In the process, however, these new practice also create a new type of subjectivity: the algorithmic body, which utilizes data gathered about individuals to compile digital representations of them. These ‘data doubles,‘ the thesis shows, are increasingly becoming a requirement of participation in modern society, as evidenced by their important role that they have played in recent years in legal cases and insurance programs. Finally, the thesis closes by showing that the algorithmic body is increasingly becoming favored over the physical one, which creates a situation in which modern subjectivity is increasingly focused on the curation of one‘s data—a data that makes one‘s self knowable to the self, but also more portable and easily knowable to others, which allows for far more subtle degrees of influence and control (which are in fact direct extensions of Michel Foucault‘s conceptions of institutional power).
Loutsenko, Alexander (2016). The Self, in Numbers: Subjectivity, the ‘Quantified Self,’ and Bodies under Control. Master's thesis, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from