Computable Bodies: Instrumented Life and the Human Somatic Niche

Author: Josh Berson

Data. Suddenly it is everywhere, and more and more of it is about us. The computing revolution has transformed our understanding of nature. Now it is transforming human behaviour.

For some, pervasive computing offers a powerful vehicle of introspection and self-improvement. For others it signals the arrival of a dangerous ‘control society’ in which surveillance is no longer the prerogative of discrete institutions but a simple fact of life.

In Computable Bodies, anthropologist Josh Berson asks how the data revolution is changing what it means to be human. Drawing on fieldwork in the Quantified Self and polyphasic sleeping communities and integrating perspectives from interaction design, the history and philosophy of science, and medical and linguistic anthropology, he probes a world where everyday life is mediated by a proliferating array of sensor montages, where we adjust our social signals to make them legible to algorithms, and where old rubrics for gauging which features of the world are animate no longer hold.

Computable Bodies
offers a vision of an anthropology for an age in which our capacity to generate data and share it over great distances is reconfiguring the body–world interface in ways scarcely imaginable a generation ago.

Published by Bloomsbury, 2015.