Digital self measurement is an indication of societies to come. I will argue that this is nothing more than a modern-day return to the alchemistic principle. The starting point is always the “common” person, the human who is not yet fully developed, or the human who represents a risk or a source of error. With the help of quantification, one’s lifestyle is said to become more rational: “common” people should be transformed into “precious” people. On the one hand, high resolution data collections open the door to new possibilities of rational differentiation. However, self observation is not only becoming more exact, it is also becoming increasingly divisive. Being socially assessable is becoming increasingly tied to economic exploitability. And economic exploitability and rational observation represent an act of abstraction that alienates people from themselves and from others: We start to perceive ourselves differently when we all observe each other based on data.
Prof. Dr. Stefan Selke is professor of “Sociology and Social change” at the University of Furtwangen (http://en.hs-furtwangen.de/) in Germany. He is also a research professor for “Transformative and Public Science” (2015-2018). At the Furtwangen University he holds the positions of a senate representative for sustainable development and the vice dean of the faculty “Health, Safety and Society”. His current research interests are about the economy of poverty, reputation capital in the charity market, public science/public sociology and the digitalisation of society (in particular lifelogging and artificial intelligence).