Surveillance, Wearables, and Confirming Mediocrity

Yesterday morning, one of my favorite twitter acquaintances tweeted a quote from an article on the future of web publishing:

“You are what you measure.” And while the ways the publishing world measures itself are surely fascinating, what’s more fascinating is our own willingness to measure ourselves. Am I what I measure? I keep track of myself with web analytics, social media analytics, fitness trackers, GPS bike ride tracking apps and the like. It’s easier to feel like you are making progress if you can quantify something. But as we quantify everything, it feels like everything is becoming computerized. Cue the soundtrack for this weeks’ reading list, a Daft Punk and Jay-Z collaboration called Computerized:


Why You Should Embrace Surveillance, Not Fight It – Wired

So while a world of total surveillance seems inevitable, we don’t know if such a mode will nurture a strong sense of self, which is the engine of innovation and creativity — and thus all future progress. How would an individual maintain the boundaries of self when their every thought, utterance, and action is captured, archived, analyzed, and eventually anticipated by others?

The self forged by previous centuries will no longer suffice. We are now remaking the self with technology. We’ve broadened our circle of empathy, from clan to race, race to species, and soon beyond that. We’ve extended our bodies and minds with tools and hardware. We are now expanding our self by inhabiting virtual spaces, linking up to billions of other minds, and trillions of other mechanical intelligences. We are wider than we were, and as we offload our memories to infinite machines, deeper in some ways.

Lifelogging: The Most Miserable, Self-Aware 30 Days I’ve Ever Spent – Mashable

I’ve taken approximately 4,056 steps so far today. As a 6’2″ bipedal mammal, that amounts to about 1.97 miles. Last night, I slept for 6.1 hours, with my deepest sleep period beginning at 2:10 a.m. and lasting for roughly two hours. If I had to rate my mood from 1 to 100, which I do, I’d place it somewhere around 73.

There — I’m quantified.

Lifelogging Mediocrity and The Quantified Self – Mockingbird

There’s a lot more to be said about a movement dedicated to life improvement through personal data analysis: will knowledge alone produce the proactive effort necessary for self improvement?  Has quantification really worked in any arena outside of professional marketing or sports? Not only that, but Knoblauch’s 30 days of misery testimony leads me to suspect that in-depth status updates every 90 minutes actually prevent helpful Lent-esque reflection that would lead to a better self. This new trend has the law of transformation written all over it, replete with the anxiety and frustration that law can bring. After all- what would you do with the data other than identify areas of weakness for improvement?

The Seduction of Transparency – Second Nature

As the contemporary imagination becomes ever more convinced that the road to a moralized citizenry passes through the defile of transparency a looming spectre becomes difficult to ignore. Our culture is reinventing a de-transcendentalized version of an old insight of adherents of biblical faith: that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

In biblical faith the fear of God is not an emotion, but describes a way of life characterized by seriousness in the pursuit of lived holiness. Servile fear is the opposite of the respectful awe of God which is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 1:7). Moses explicitly opposes these two forms of fear after giving the Israelites the Ten Commandments: “Do not be afraid; for God has come only to test you and to put the fear of him upon you so that you do not sin” (Ex. 20:20). God’s approval of Abraham’s obedience in preparing to sacrifice Isaac is put in similar terms: “…now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your only son” (Gen. 22:12). Nor is this view substantially altered in the New Testament: “If you invoke as Father the one who judges all people impartially according to their deeds, live in reverent fear during the time of your exile” (1 Peter 1:17). In the Bible, the “fear of the Lord” thus names the assent of the will to God’s claims on human life, an assent which overrides the fears of human praise and blame by which governing authorities have always shaped human behavior – a mantle now assumed by the corporation and its emphasis on pleasing the gaze of our peers.

 daft punk jay-z computerized

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About the Contributor

Benjamin Robertson

Benjamin Robertson
Benjamin Robertson is a founding editor at Second Nature. He has worked in advertising for the Chicago Tribune and Gannett, and now is a web developer at Mediacurrent. He studied Communications and Media Studies under Dr. Read Schuchardt at Wheaton College in Illinois. He has presented papers on Marshall McLuhan, media ecology, and Christianity at the Media Ecology Association, National Communication Association, and the McLuhan's Philosophy of Media Centennial Conference in Brussels. He lives with his wife, Ruth, in Greenville, SC. His personal website is

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