Our Project

In the context of recent discussions about Big Data and the Quantified Self, quantitative ideas about being human and human subjectivity have been increasingly reflected in social and cultural debates. This research project is based on the assumption that conceptions of the self, particularly in the United States, are increasingly influenced by quantifiable parameters which result from rapidly increasing processes of digitalization, economization and technological expansion in all areas of life. It is the aim of the project to analyze how US-American novels reflect and comment on the qualitative changes of the human condition that are effected by quantitative methods – against the backdrop of the interpretive dominance held by the natural and social sciences – and also which tentative solutions they offer. In this context, the term “quantified self” is employed as a flexible term which can be linked to theoretical discourses of 1) economy-driven forms of subjectivity, 2) post-humanism, and 3) knowledge cultures in the information age. Taking into account previous analyses and theoretical discourses in these fields, the project aims to determine their similarities and intersections and summarize them under the broader concept of the “quantified self.” Using this approach as a vantage point, the project intends to conduct an analysis of the contemporary phenomenon of the quantified self within literary and cultural studies, as this has not yet been a major focus of research to date. The specific focus applied here allows the analysis to expand beyond the diagnostic and descriptive level and furthermore, to consider social implications and prognoses as well as alternative courses of action. A central thesis of this research project is that while the United States has been subjected to extreme forms of a modernization process driven by technology, at the same time, it has produced important critical and corrective positions of observation and reflection. Put differently, US culture, literature in particular, permanently accompanies and reflects these processes from the position of a second-order observer. Moreover, the research results will allow us to draw conclusions about similar developments taking place globally.