Tools for Well-Being Talk Series: Professor Natasha Dow Schüll

February 28, 2014


MIT Media Lab, E14-633


Digital self-tracking, sometimes called "life hacking" or "personal analytics," involves parsing one's experience (e.g. bodily processes, use of time, emotional states) into digital bits of information and then feeding this information back into everyday life in the form of behavioral adjustments–a trend some have called “algorithmic living.” While people have long used technology to record and reflect upon how they live, the present historical moment is witnessing a dramatic expansion in the practice and scope of self-tracking. As digital self-tracking increasingly migrates from Quantified Self meetups and hacker conventions into the aisles of Best Buy, smartphone app stores, and healthcare settings, and as more and more individuals have at their fingertips devices and software with which to measure, assess, and modulate themselves, what new modes of self-understanding and self-regulation emerge?


Natasha Dow Schüll is a cultural anthropologist and associate professor at MIT’s Program in Science, Technology, and Society. Her book, Addiction by Design: Machine Gambling in Las Vegas (Princeton University Press 2012), draws on extended research among compulsive gamblers and the designers of the slot machines they play to explore the relationship between technology design and the experience of addiction. Her current research concerns the rise of digital self-tracking technologies and the new modes of introspection and self-governance they engender. Schüll’s research has been supported by the National Science Foundation, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and featured on 60 Minutes and in The New York Times, The Economist, The Atlantic Monthly, The Washington Post, The Financial Times, Forbes, Salon, NPR, WGBH, and WNYC, among others.

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