The Quantified Self
A group show curated by Emma Hazen
June 13–15, 2014; 7pm
Through the development of mobile devices and an aestheticization of the technological interface,1 information processing machines previously used in the office have advanced to mediate leisure environments of the consumer. Always within arm’s reach, devices moderate and perpetually intervene with experience. These personalized technologies are extensions of our corporeality–connecting us to information networks while simultaneously recording and responding to our physical realities. Daily life has been immersed with technology, yet, our tools shape us as much as we create them. Though each isolated piece of data recorded on our devices may remain inconsequential, pattern recognition within datasets is increasingly important for users and corporations alike in an era when “data is the new coal.”2 As individuals harness data for self-optimization, corporations transform the same data into information for targeted marketing or resale to the government or other entities. The NSA’s surveillance tactics came under scrutiny recently, yet little is known about advertisers’ mostly unregulated data-mining practices.
Sourcing its title from the quantified self movement, a trend where individuals track their physical and mental health through apps, sensors, and other devices, The Quantified Self examines the biopolitical ramifications of data as a currency, knowingly traded by the individual to the corporation in exchange for alleged self-improvement. The calories tracked through MyPlate, the steps taken per day measured by Fitbit, gym check-ins through Foursquare, and #organic #healthy #local meals posted on Instagram, for example, all translate to vital information that can be sold to a potential health insurer.3
Considering the corporate potential of corporeal data, The Quantified Self features work by Dayton Castleman, Athena Denos, Lauren Elder, Alex Ito and Dominic Samsworth. In an eternally connected, post-fordist economy where the division between work and leisure is indistinguishable,The Quantified Self will be on view twenty-four hours a day through a live stream so the exhibition may be surveilled globally. The Quantified Self does not critique the corporation, but functions as a corporation of critique.4
1 Interaction as an Aesthetic Event” Lev Manovich, 2007.
2 Kenneth Goldsmith quoted in “Haley Mellin,” Youngandstarving.com, 2013.
3 "How Your Data Are Being Deeply Mined” Alice E. Marwick, 2013.
4 See "From the Critique of Institutions to an Institution of Critique” Andrea Fraser, 2005.
The alarm on her FuelBand pulses at 5:30 am because she wants to be a better person. Studies show that early risers are more proactive, more likely to anticipate problems, and more optimistic than those who sleep in. She wakes up two hours later because no one is expecting her to be anywhere. She slept for 12 hours and worries for a moment that it means she is depressed. It's still early, she thinks aloud.
From bed she scrolls through news, links, baby pictures, and other pieces of life. She composes an update to share and deletes it. She writes something else and deletes that too. She looks around the room. She's happy to be home even if it doesn't show. She chides herself for forgetting to practice gratitude. She closes her eyes and thinks about her family with gentle love and appreciation. Thank you, she whispers to the universe. Her goodwill quickly evaporates as she hears Deb, her mother, making a morning racket in the kitchen. She decides to wait until Deb leaves to get out of bed.
Her favorite breakfast is a smoothie. She makes a Greena-Colada with pineapple chunks, coconut water, avocado, protein powder, green powder, and flax seed oil. Usually she enjoys entering items into her food diary before eating them. It's like predicting the future.
She pours the drink into a chipped IKEA tumbler. She washes the blender and the other dishes in the sink. She straightens the items on the counter, and wipes down the tabletops. She hopes her parents are grateful that she's here.
Since moving back to the West Coast she's been reading Free Will Astrology. Today her horoscope said that she is homing in on an impossible dream.
Once she feels anxious enough she gets in the car and drives downtown. She usually runs from Angels Flight to 2nd Street, down 2nd to SciArc, across to Temple, back up to Figueroa, Figueroa all the way to Olympic, and back across Hill. It's a 6 mile loop, or 3,000 Fuel Points.
She's wearing all Nike. A few years ago she would've been embarrassed to have swooshes all over her, but the logo is in. She wishes Stella McCartney for Adidas was easier to find in the States.
She plants her feet firmly on the grass, shoulder distance apart. She reaches her arms above her head and pushes them towards the sun. She folds her body in half and plants her hands next to her feet as she looks towards the mountains and lengthens her spine. She kicks her feet out behind her and flows through a few more stretches. She kneads her hamstring for a minute while she stares ahead at nothing.
For a moment she thinks about quitting. It's warm. It's going to be hard. She's going to get tired and her muscles might ache tomorrow. She imagines getting back in the car and driving home. She knows better. She'll feel amazing when she's done.
She starts off slowly, one foot after the other until she finds her pace. She cruises around pedestrians and other obstructions, reading each sign as it passes her. Parking all day $7. Discount wholesale electronics.
Her breath syncs with her stride and she falls into a comforting rhythm. She chants silent messages of positivity, hope, and gratitude. In her headphones, Beyoncé yells at her. Most people jog to clear their minds, but she runs to fill hers. She just wishes she could track that too.
—Martine Syms, originally published in Rhizome
Live—stream in full screen at the show's website
Sponsored by Don Q Rum and Magic Hat