Picture: Stefan Selke
Lifelogging Part 1
In a rough Berlin bookstore there is a stack of my book "Lifelogging" next to a thick book by the French star sociologist Pierre Bourdieu ("on the state"). Admittedly, I am touched. No one is protected from vanity. Not even me. At the beginning of each semester, I discuss the wonderful documentary film "Sociology as a martial art", which shows some of Bourdieu’s public appearances. This semester I was even asked by a student if I had a "Bourdieu fan" be. Not a bad question, perhaps just a rather unusual one.
As a first reaction to the book display, the impulse arose to take a photo with the smartphone and then to publish this picture on Facebook. Fortunately, the camera function of my smartphone was defective and for technical reasons I had to do without the "Proof" of my "Near" to Bourdieu’s renunciation. But could I also personally do without it? This self-critical question came to my mind unmistakably. Welcome to the topic of lifelogging! Welcome to the search for what comprehensive digital self-vermeng and life logging does to ourselves and to society.
As a sociologist, I analyze the trend of digital self- and other-integration from a sociological perspective. What this is not about is the description of technical functions of glancing lamps and sensors. Rather, I’m looking for the thinking styles associated with lifelogging, the framing zeitgeist and the creeping shift in our cultural matrix. The book is accompanied by some short videos (produced at Furtwangen University), in which the typical fields of lifelogging as well as the culturalist core theses are presented in a condensed way. With my online contributions, I would like to provide some basic theses on the boom of lifelogging, present fields of application that have not been dealt with so far, and illuminate supplementary aspects – because the phenomenon of lifelogging continues to develop, is linked to related topics, and is interpreted through the lens of new (technical and political) developments.
Back to my example: What had I gained from photographing the stack of books? Is this really a better basis for my memories?? How objective was this photo, what did it prove?? These are all questions that arise when it comes to lifelogging. At least, if lifelogging is understood as the sum of all self-verification and life logging methods that are currently used with digital Heinzelmanns (mini-sensors, mini-cameras, etc.).) are possible.
The media hype around the online platform and community of interest "Quantified Self" has unfortunately narrowed the topic of self-vermeng strongly. One of the aims of my book is to take a critical look at as many facets of lifelogging as possible in a coherent way. For there is a blind spot: while the dangers of the digital surveillance culture are discussed in the feuilletons and congresses are held about the "Vermeng of the World" and "Big Data" While the world of digitalization is being pushed out of the ground by business, science and politics, the individual and societal risks of voluntary digital self-integration have not yet been adequately addressed. An open debate would be desirable, because it is not only about the NSA and its toys, but also about our private lives and the self-inhibiting instruments used in them.
After all, the encounter with the stack of books makes me wonder what Bourdieu thought about lifelogging. Hardly anyone has examined the social demarcation lines of society as closely as the French sociologist ("Fine distinctions", "Misery of the world"). If Bourdieu wanted to empirically map the taste preferences and distinction mechanisms of modern society, he would have to draw on an incredibly heterogeneous data set.
Comparatively simple was still his social radar during the lie ara. His research revealed new social divisions between digital failures and digital conformists. This may have led him to the core of the sociological understanding of lifelogging: Data are not only descriptive, they are also normative. They create (new) expectations, standards and rules. With the term "Doxa" Bourdieu described how social rules emerge in different social fields and with which effectiveness they unfold (e.g.B. in the academic milieu). This is exactly what is happening with the private self-vermeng in almost all areas of life. We all contribute to the creation of new rules of the game, which we then have to abide by ourselves.
The process used to do this can be described as rational discrimination be described. In modern (d.h. especially also: neoliberal) societies hardly anyone is excluded for ethical, racist or other irrational motives. This void is filled with the smart data collections about our performance, a form of distinction that superficially appears to be very rational, but which is ultimately no less discriminating.
The priests and shamans within the lifelogging movement insist in their manifestos, by means of manifold promises of salvation, that data cannot lie and are therefore objective. This is exactly what Max Weber meant by intellectualistic rationalization the unconditional belief that in principle everything is explicable. Its "Disenchantment thesis" became world famous.
On the one hand, lifelogging fits very well into this program of principled knowledge. It serves a need for order and control. On the other hand, a creeping re-enchantment of the world in the guise of unconditional reason is being pursued. In many fields of application, the belief in the validity of data collected voluntarily and on one’s own initiative has been exaggerated, even turned into a fetish. The re-enchantment of the world by lifelogging and the belief in the universalistic orientation by data contained in it love to be spelled out in this way: Is it really rational to behave so rationally? Or do the many examples and fields of application of lifelogging – health monitoring, location tracking, performance recording, memory tools and digital life archives – not rather testify to an irrational distortion of our relationship to the self and the world??
This is at least the basic thesis of the book. We look into the digital mirror, but we do not see ourselves, but we see ourselves as we should be. The means the normativity of the data. Soon we will know very well what it means not to be an ideal customer, not to be an ideal employee and not to be an ideal person anymore. This is exactly the basic overload and overcharge of lifelogging.
In any case, I was glad that I could not take a photo of the book stack just now. I have tried to memorize this beautiful picture and to keep it as a souvenir in this way. One day I will annoy students by telling this little story, but I will take this right as an old man. Perhaps I’ll also declare myself a Bourdieu fan.