Thursday, 31 May 2012

Moods and and the quantified self

There has been much talk of late about sentiment mining and the quantified self (see Technology Review here for example), and the growing trend to chart everything from mood ratings to exercise routines to sleeping and eating habits. The propensity towards popular adoption of monitoring tools points to a reapproachment between the insistence of the lived dimension of phenomenology and behavioural tracking technologies. This is not to say that tracking tools can engage with the lived, but rather than there is something highly noteworthy about the possibility of being able to engage, predict and more centrally the capacity to offer verisimilitude of understanding demonstrated by dint of prediction. Behavioural technologies do not capture experiences, at least in the sense that phenomenologists mean. To capture means to be capable of reflection and it would at present be absurd to attribute lived streams of consciousness and reflection to behavioural advertising systems, although computers are highly effective simulators.

This said, increasingly [autopoietic] feedback systems give order and meaning to our mediated experiences in that they sorts, arrange, order, categorise and offers immediate feedback in many forms that sits and flows appropriately with user’s phenomenal lives (health or advertising being obvious examples). This brings up some delicious ironies in that how can reductionism pertain to understand or affect experience? It comes back to a question of moods, and what elsewhere I have called “the mood of information”. This is to recognise that we live outside of ourselves. While traditionally we think of ourselves as bounded subjects delimited by the body, the opposite is true. This occurs not only in relation to networked technologies but networks more generally. It is in these feedback systems where the mood of information is engendered, that is, the tone of interaction defined through our general orientation to the world and everyday life mediated through networked systems.

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I am director of the Media and Persuasive Communication (MPC) network at Bangor University where I also lecture on political-economy of the media. I am currently working on a book provisionally titled Deconstructing Privacy for Peter Lang and leading two empirical projects in connection with privacy perception and the use of new media for smoking cessation. I am author of Creativity and Advertising: Affect, Events and Process (Routledge, 2013); The Mood of Information: A Critique of Behavioural Advertising (Continuum, 2011); and Digital Advertising (Palgrave-MacMillan, 2009). Please contact me at if you are interested in Ph.D supervision or consultancy services.