Article on self-tracking and habitualization

A new article – co-authored with Selin Gerlek – was published open-access as part of the edited volume Von Menschen und Maschinen: Mensch-Maschine-Interaktionen in digitalen Kulturen. The article reflects on how self-tracking practices can be used as a way to transform habits. The empirical starting point for this was based on interviews, in which self-trackers professed to have developed capabilities that were interpreted as changed attentive practices and tacit knowledge: they reported that, after a certain period of using the ST devices, they were surprised to experience something akin to a “new sense”.

Using conceptions from phenomenology and postphenomenology, the surprising emergence of this “new sense” could be explicated as resulting from a digital embodied practice. They were shown to have the potential to transform the user’s self-relationship by forming a habit of attention to certain feelings and experiences of our body. These attentive practices were habitualized so that, in the end, the original self-tracking devices were no longer needed. By revisiting the Deweyan roots of postphenomenology, we were able to offer an interpretation of this as overcoming (unreflected or bad) routine by establishing deliberately chosen alternatives, intelligent habits, over time. For this, a deliberate and controlled attention to routine is a necessary prerequisite. Through self-tracking practices, a habitualization of attention to existing habits can take place and this, in turn, may form the basis for deliberate change of these habits as part of a transformation towards reflective or intelligent habit.

Gerlek, Selin, and Sebastian Weydner-Volkmann. 2022. “Self-Tracking and Habitualization. (Post)-Phenomenological and Pragmatist Perspectives on Reflecting Habits with the Help of Digital Technologies.” In: Selin Gerlek, Sarah Kissler, Thorben Mämecke, and Dennis Möbus (eds.): Von Menschen und Maschinen: Mensch-Maschine-Interaktionen in digitalen Kulturen, 136–149. DOI: 10.57813/20220623-152405-0 (open access).

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