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Performance and New Technologies Working Group : Performing the Quantified Self: Authorship, Ownership and Autobiography in the era of Big Data

Call Deadline: 18 April 2016

Questions of privacy and access drive current debates around big data gathering, information mining and the re-appropriation and commodification of virtual entities, posing practical and ethical concerns around authorship, ownership and identity. Social networks occupy a central position in our daily lives, circulating knowledge and fostering innovation; but they are also closely monitored, leading to hyper-centralized forms of surveillance with the data they produce being re-appropriated, sold-on or assessed for market analysis.  It is currently estimated that at least 2.5 quintillion bytes of data is produced every day (Price 2015) and whilst the leakage, harvesting and co-ordination of big data for capital gain is apparently inexorable, there exists a burgeoning variety of authorial and autobiographical strategies and interventions of network users for intuitive needs with unintended ends.

For TaPRA 2016 the Performance and New Technologies Working Group explores social networks and social media applications as phenomena that turn users from bodies of flesh into bodies of data that are captured, mined, exploited and subverted. It studies how people contribute to ‘a permanent capture of life into data’ (transmediale 2015) through daily routines of surfing, shopping, and life-logging. The event aims to make transparent the triangulation between people, their data, and those who use it; raise awareness regarding the scale and applications of those phenomena; and propose ways of responding to this apparent loss of privacy. Perfoming the Quantified Self encourages debate on the potential impact of ‘capture all’ practices (ibid) and considers avenues for resistance to – or celebration of -processes of self-quantification.

Performing the Quantified Self invites participants to reflect on questions around (conscious and inadvertent) autobiographical performance in a big data world:

  • How, where and for whom do we perform ourselves through tracking, surveillance, sousveillance, datafication and self-quantification?
  • Who authors, co-authors, orchestrates and controls our data-generating performances of the self; do we have control of our own data bodies?
  • What is private and what is public in a big data world where everything is tracked; are data bodies inevitably transparent bodies, always on display, available to read? How vulnerable does this make us to exploitation?
  • What is private and what is public in a big data world where everything is tracked; are data bodies inevitably transparent bodies, always on display, available to read? How vulnerable does this make us to exploitation? What are ways of regaining control of our selfhood and its (private and public) performance in this context?
  • How are processes of contribution and collaboration complementing or subverting existing forms of personalised annotation on the Internet? What are the implications for authorship? At what point does autobiography become a palimpsest of multiple authorship, resulting in a new category: the collaborative auteur (Kelly, 2015)?
  • What notable trends for interaction are producing new ways of mapping experience?
  • What are the power dynamics of a postmodern cartography in which traces, objects and reflections of multiple authors are ultimately controlled by the proprietary corporations that run the networks?



Please send a 300 word proposal, a short biographical statement, and an outline of technical requirements by 18th April to both Working Group Conveners:

Dr Maria Chatzichristodoulou, &

Dr Jeremy Kelly,

Proposals, if accepted, may be directed into a range of presentational formats: traditional panels (with 20 minute papers); pre-circulated papers that form the basis for a short presentation and discussion; or, where appropriate, performance-based panels. While we welcome statements of preference, final decisions will be made by the working group conveners and will be indicated at the time of acceptance. We welcome alternative, practice-as-research or performative proposals that engage rigorously with the theme, but these must be achievable with limited resources and within a 20-30 minute time period.

The Working Group also warmly welcomes participants who do not wish to present a paper this year.

Only one proposal may be submitted for the TaPRA 2016 Conference at the University of Bristol. It is not permitted to submit multiple proposals or submit the same proposal to several Calls for Papers. All presenters must be TaPRA members, i.e. registered for the conference; this includes presentations given by Skype or other media broadcast even where the presenter may not physically attend the conference venue. If your paper has been accepted, yet you have not registered for the Conference by the final registration deadline of 7th August 2016, we will deem you no longer intend to participate and present at TaPRA 2016.


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