The Quantified Life. Productive and Counterproductive Consequences of Quantification in the Digitally Optimizing Society

The projects topic are the ambivalent consequences of optimization logics that, to a large extent, are orientated towards quantitative increase and have gained considerable significance in the course of the digital change. By means of the tripartite project design the study will examine productive as well as counterproductive dimensions of the ‚orientation towards figures’ and the quantification of life in the context of organizational and individual digital processes of optimization, including their intersubjective as well as psychic implications.
Thus, the intended research project builds upon the study ‘Aporias of Perfection in Accelerated Modernities. Current Cultural Change in Self-Concepts, Relationship Patterns and Body Practices’ (APAS), funded by the VolkswagenStiftung in association with the initiative ‘Key Topics in Science and Society’ [Schlüsselthemen für Wissenschaft und Gesellschaft]. The APAS-project studied the meaning and consequences of optimization demands in social practices regarding various social fields and realms of life as well as in relation to changes in cultural norms and concepts of ‘normality’ and ‘pathology’. Central results of this study lead to the following assumptions:
Firstly: Steady optimization of processes and products are a precondition for production and reproduction dynamics in contemporary societies. Closely connected to these dynamics are efficient, economic and primarily quantifying controlling, marketing and action logics, that not only affect organisational contexts, but also the individual lebensführung [i.e. lifestyle], social relationships and even shape self-concepts and body practices of the individuals.
Secondly: Caused by technical and interrelated sociocultural changes digitally quantifying optimization has gained significance and shapes in conjunction with its diverse manifestations the institutional strategies of increase, but also the social and psychic coping strategies and interpretative patterns.
Thirdly: Digitally quantifying optimization simultaneously has productive and counterproductive sides to it, creates partly dilemmata in the face of the tension between quality and quantity of optimization and is being experienced by the individuals in some respect ambivalently. The manifestations, backgrounds and consequences for the various contexts are to be traced.
Hence, the subprojects explore the following areas of digitally quantifying optimization:

Sp I (Jena): The meaning of and orientation towards figures in practices and interactional modes of professional organisations.

Sp II (Frankfurt/M.): The meaning of and orientation towards figures, especially in regard to the forming of relationships in Social Media in relation to non-digital and face-to-face communication (Frankfurt) in comparison to the clinical patients (sample in Berlin).

Sp III (Berlin): The meaning of and orientation towards figures in consideration of body practices performed by clinical patients and in relation to non-patients (sample in Frankfurt).

In its tripartite transdisciplinary research design and by means of its method triangulation (quantitative and different qualitative approaches) the intended project follows the path that the APAS-project successfully has pursued. Hence, it aims at intensifying the analysis of the correlations between various social levels as well as tensions of standardizations and changes in practices, all to often culminating in exhausting and pathogenic scenarios as well as developing new concepts and methodological approaches to study the intermediation of society and the individual, culture and psyche.

Project leader: Prof. Dr. Vera King, Prof. Dr. Benigna Gerisch (IPU Berlin), Prof. Dr. Hartmut Rosa (Univ. Jena und Max-Weber-Kolleg Erfurt)
Project duration: 2018-2021
Funded by: VolkswagenStiftung