The perfectibility of the self: on the promises of digital health technologies

Activity: Talk or presentationTalk at conference or symposiumScience to science


The quantified self has received scholarly attention for quite some time. From an STS point of view the various ways in which digital technologies translate the human body into numbers is of particular interest. Technologies are used to relate to one’s own body, to perceive it, objectify it and ultimately to act upon it in order to transform it. Sensors and tracking technologies have become omnipresent companions of modern life, whether they come in special devices or as integrated functions of smartphones. We produce data everywhere we go, practically at all times. These data are valued as a resource and many are keen to capitalize on them. It is a central part of the quantification promise that these data hold the key to self-optimization. I discuss these technologies of the self against the backdrop of much older ideas of self-perfection. This allows me to draw out the unique type of contemporary self-optimization practices in a larger context of historical discourses on what it means to live a good life. In my paper, I will draw on Foucault and complement my analysis with references to Passmore’s work on self-perfection. This contribution is inspired by the author’s research on ethical, legal and social aspects of digital health technologies (funded by Zukunftsfond Steiermark, PN 8008).
Period22 Aug 2019
Event title14th Conference of the European Sociological Association: Europe and Beyond:Boundaries, Barriers and Belonging
Event typeConference
LocationManchester, United KingdomShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)

Fields of Expertise

  • Human- & Biotechnology