Research Topic

Quantified Identities

Globally, millions of people are tracking their daily behaviors in a process called ‘self-quantification’. We are studying the stages which make up this complex process and its implications for self-perception, privacy, and the work environment.

Description

The phenomenon of digital self-tracking – the collection of data by means of mobile applications and wearables devices – is at the core of the “Quantified Identities” sub-track. A variety of quantification tools that recently became available to the consumer market open new opportunities for users, but also pose challenges. Self-tracking technologies can provide interesting data for self-reflection and may empower users to take charge of their lives. At the same time, the quantification of experiences has proven to be detrimental to individuals’ well-being. Our research team draws from social psychology, human-computer interactions and organizational studies to study these self-tracking phenomenon and their implications for different stakeholders.

 

Sub-Topics and Findings

 The Quantified life and humanness

Everyday experiences, such as walking, eating, working, and even interacting with other people are intensely quantified nowadays. Steps, calories, screen time, likes are metrics that make people change their routines and make up their mind about various consumer choices. But what does quantification mean for our sense of humanness? In one of the research projects on quantified identities, our research team is conducting multiple experiments to demonstrate that experience quantification leads to dehumanization. People exposed to experience quantification perceive themselves as more machine-like and less human-like.

Wearables in the organizations

An increasing number of organizations introduces wearables at the workplace to create a culture of well-being at work, as well as to improve employees’ skills and elevate competencies. Virtual reality glasses that provide doctors with a comprehensive overview of patient’s condition, safety helmets wired with micro-chips that measure electrodermal activity (perspiration) of employees to inform management about stress levels of the personnel, and activity wristbands that nudge employees to engage in more physical activity are becoming more common at the workplace. Managers explain that these technologies will create more inspiring environments for employees and increase the productivity of the workforce. These technologies, however, create multiple ethical, privacy, and safety challenges. Our research team studies the effects of introducing such wearables at workplace and outlines strategies for more mindful use of these technologies.

Self-tracking and self-learning

The promise of a healthier and happier life is central to the self-tracking culture. Fitness apps (such as Endomondo, MyFitnessPal) and wearables (such as Fitbits, Garmin) offer an assurance of a more optimal lifestyle. These technologies are expected to provide its users with meaningful knowledge about their bodies and minds and open the gates of self-enlightenment. Users are expected to get new insights from the data they collect about themselves and engage in life-changing behaviors. In reality, however, these technologies rarely lead to healthier lifestyles. Our research team critically evaluates different self-tracking practices and identifies factors contributing to self-learning.

Collaborating Institutions

Leuphana University, University of Applied Sciences Lucerne, Harvard University

Activities and Career Paths

The “Quantified identities” sub-track has sparked great curiosity in our community and motivated a number of academic collaborations. One of the researchers heavily involved in all “Quantified identities” project is Kateryna Maltseva.

In 2017, Kateryna Maltseva has chaired the session “Self-tracking, surveillance and privacy” at Metric Life conference in Aarhus, Denmark. Together with Christoph Lutz, Kateryna presented a paper “A Quantum of Self: A Study on Self-Quantification and Self-Disclosure” at the conference. This paper has later been published in the Computers in Human Behavior Journal.

In autumn 2018, Kateryna presented research project on quantification and dehumanization at Quantified Self conference in Portland, Oregon. In this project Kateryna Maltseva, Christian Fieseler, and Klemens Knoeferle are using experimental methods to investigate the effect of quantification of experiences on sense of self-humanness. The working paper has been recently presented at EMAC 2019 annual conference in Hamburg, Germany.

One of the current collaborations in “Quantified identities” project is the work on self-tracking and self-learning conducted by NCIS team (Kateryna Maltseva, Christian Fieseler, Alexander Buhmann) and Andres Lombana-Bermudez from Pontifical Javeriana University in Colombia.

Key Publications

Maltseva, K., Fieseler, C., & Trittin-Ulbrich, H. (2018). The challenges of gamifying CSR communication. Corporate Communications: An International Journal, online first, 1-19. Journal link

Maltseva, K., & Lutz, C. (2018). A quantum of self: A study of self-quantification and self-disclosure. Computers in Human Behavior, 81, 102-114. Journal link

Trittin, H., Fieseler, C., & Maltseva, K. (2018). The Serious and the Mundane: Reflections on Gamified CSR Communication. Journal of Management Inquiry, online first, 1-4. Journal link