Lucy Osler Talk: "Objectification, Tech, and the Quantified Self"


Location: 126 DeBartolo Hall

Lucy Osler will present the talk. She is a philosophy lecturer at Cardiff University specializing in phenomenological and 4E approaches to sociality, psycopathology, and technology. She is particularly interested in the role of the body and bodily experience in social interaction, so-called 'mental' health, and our use of contemporary tech.

Abstract: In 2007, Gary Wolf and Kevin Kelly founded the “Quantified Self” network - a network that promotes the monitoring of ‘the self’ through self-tracking, particularly by using wearable technology and apps. Many self-trackers focus on bodily health, bodily fitness, bodily measurements, and bodily feelings. We can monitor our step count, our weight, our calorie in-take, our moods, our periods of concentration, our work outputs, how far we have run, the number of minutes we have spent on our phones, our views and likes. Often self-trackers can provide us with information about our bodies that would not typically be available to us, for instance information about heart rate or eye-movement.

As Smart et al. (2017, 2u68) put it: "One of the implications of the quantified self is that it provides a greater degree of awareness regarding one’s bodily states and processes". In this talk, I consider: (1) what kind of bodily awareness do self-tracking apps promote and (2) whether this is a desirable kind of awareness.

One of the key insights that phenomenology teaches us is that we experience our bodies in two ways. We can experience our bodies as objects in the world - as having mass, texture, colour. Typically, though, we do not turn our gaze upon our bodies but live through our bodies as a bodily subject. I argue that by placing our biological bodies under constant scrutiny, quantified self tech can encourage us to engage in the self-objectification of our bodies.

Originally published at