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Our Desire to Improve

The Quantified Self between "Digital Alchemy" and a New Social Contract

Technologies for digital self-measurement are booming: as auto-ethnographic research tools, as proto-scientific self-exploration organized in scenes („Quantified Self“) and as popularized acts of everyday life. They are epic because their use follows narrations that conform to our current Zeitgeist. They are utopian because concepts of the future, which are connected to imaginations of ideal societies, are always projected onto current acts. Ultimately, digital self-measurement is mystical as well, because even ultra-modern technologies cannot conceal that the underlying principle of operation is ancient: Algorithmization is a renaissance of the alchemical principle in the form of digital transformation. By a “conversion”, “ignoble” humans are turned into “refined” media of socially desired qualities. What does this mean for the individual as well as for society (not only “Generation Y”)? And what about digital sovereignty and the protection of vulnerable digital consumers?

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