Dyer, James (2018) THROUGH THE OPTIC OF DESIGN: SELF-TRACKING AND THE PERMANENCE OF CHANGE. Doctoral thesis, University of Huddersfield.

The topic of this study is self-tracking. To “self-track” is to quantify steps, calories, heart rate, social interactions, geo-location, posture, and so on. The few monographs, academic papers, and conferences, concerned with this topic often deliver similar philosophical representations of self-tracking based on shared material and socio-cultural assumptions. Generally, these assumptions are wedded to a series of essentialist, absolutist, and deterministic tropes, as well as to neo-humanist and more traditionally humanist forms of discourse. The present study argues that these established discourses play against the predominant tendencies of much contemporary philosophical thought. Contemporary thought is more post humanist than humanist, draws attention to mediation more than media, qualities of indeterminacy more than determinacy, and dynamism more than stasis. The lack of imagination in current discourses of self-tracking, as well as their disengagement with contemporary thought, has resulted in the most pertinent philosophical insight of the phenomena of self-tracking being overlooked: namely the permanence of change. Unique to discourses of self-tracking, this study foregrounds the permanence of change as an already kinetic and transformative aspect of the natural world. As a result of this unique contribution, this study backgrounds the monotony of substance-metaphysical thought as a resistance to the established trends of self-tracking discourses. There are four parts to this process-oriented world view that make up the main features of this research. Firstly, the missing dynamism of self-tracking is rendered actual by its reframing in an event-based ontology, therefore emphasising the emergence, mutation, and inevitable excesses of self-tracking phenomena. Secondly, self-tracking is critically situated in anti-representational terms by focusing on the recent processual-turn in new media theory. Thirdly, via a genealogical method, self-tracking is rearticulated as something dynamic, with a long and plural history of transformative relations. Finally, by emphasising the political, relational, and fictional, a re-imagined speculative alternative to self-tracking is brought to focus through the optic of contemporary design theory.

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