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Friday, November 6 2015
10:00pm - 11:30pm

Tracking, Sensing, Shifting: The Media of Mood Modulation

Please join us this Friday for a talk in the
Design & Computation Group Lecture Series: Computational Mediations
at the MIT Department of Architecture

“Tracking, Sensing, Shifting: The Media of Mood Modulation”

Friday, NOVEMBER 6, 2015
Long Lounge [Room 7-429]

Natasha Dow Schüll
Associate Professor of Media, Culture and Communication, New York University

While people have long employed technology to record and reflect upon their bodily and emotional states, the present historical moment is witnessing a dramatic expansion in the practice and scope of self-tracking as we are offered an ever-expanding array of computational devices and software with which to measure, assess, and modulate our daily actions, habits, and rhythms. My talk will consider the novel modalities of agency that emerge from this media by focusing on competing designs for personal mood-management technologies: those which involve selves in “active” tracking involving self-report and analysis; those which enroll selves in “passive” or “frictionless” tracking systems that require little to no self-reflection or input, allocating the work of sensing and “making sense” of the self to digital technology and algorithms; and those which dispense altogether with sensing and simply work to shift individuals' inner states. A close examination of the design of sensor- and algorithm-based self-regulation devices, I argue, offers a telling view onto cultural anxieties and sociopolitical debates over the place of autonomy and individual responsibility in contemporary governance.

Natasha Dow Schüll's first book, ADDICTION BY DESIGN: Machine Gambling in Las Vegas (Princeton University Press 2012), draws on extended research among compulsive gamblers and the designers of the slot machines they play to explore the relationship between technology design and the experience of addiction. Her next book, KEEPING TRACK: Sensor Technology, Self-Regulation, and the Data-Driven Life (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, forthcoming 2017), concerns the rise of digital self-tracking technologies and the new modes of introspection and self-governance they engender. Her documentary film, BUFFET: All You Can Eat Las Vegas, has screened multiple times on PBS and appeared in numerous film festivals. Schüll graduated Summa Cum Laude from UC Berkeley’s Department of Anthropology in 1993 and returned to receive her PhD in 2003. She held postdoctoral positions as a Robert Wood Johnson Health and Society Scholar at Columbia University’s Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy and as a fellow at NYU’s International Center for Advanced Studies. She joined MIT's Program in Science, Technology, and Society in 2007 and was awarded tenure in early 2015, before moving to NYU. Schüll’s research has been supported by the National Science Foundation\, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, among other sources. Schüll’s research and op-eds have been featured in such national media venues as 60 minutes, The New York Times, The Economist, The Atlantic, The Washington Post, Capital Gazette, Financial Times, Forbes, Boston Globe, Salon, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Daily Herald, Las Vegas Sun, 99% Invisible, NPR, WGBH, and WNYC.

Downloadable reading materials provided by Natasha Schüll can be found by following this URL:
and then clicking "Presentation Downloads”.

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