Call for Papers Workshop Histories of Measurement and Self-making.

Fenneke Sysling's picture



Call for Papers


Workshop: Histories of Measurement and Self-making.

Date: Thursday 29 and Friday 30 June 2017

Venue: University of Utrecht, the Netherlands


Speakers:    Hilary Marland & Roberta Bivins (University of Warwick)

                    Harro Maas (University of Lausanne)


Today, people increasingly use digital technologies to collect data on their health, habits and wellbeing and sociologists of science and technology have started to discuss how these development change our notions of identity, autonomy and privacy. This workshop explores the histories of these practices, looking at different forms of measurement and self-management in the 19th and 20th century. So far, historians have paid more attention to the role of scientists and the state in producing data about people than they have to individual practices. The aim of this workshop is to trace the genealogies of today’s culture of quantification and to investigate the role of (personalized) quantification in the making of the modern self. 


We seek to address the following questions: How were scientific techniques such as quantification applied to the individual body and household? How were sciences such as phrenology, medicine, statistics and anthropometry made personal? How did quantification change people’s understanding of themselves? How did numbers become an incentive to self-improvement? Do today’s metric practices represent change or continuity?


We invite submissions on topics related (but not limited) to histories of:

  • personal quantification
  • self-monitoring, self-tracking and self-management
  • Private numbers and public numbers
  • Popular science and personal uses of quantification
  • How individuals related to statistics and averages
  • Measurements in the household
  • Numeracy/quantitative literacy
  • Accounting tools in the home
  • Measureing as entertainment
  • Self-surveillance


Deadline and contact information:

Abstracts (max. 300 words) for a 20-minute paper and a short biographical note should be sent by 6 January 2017 to:


Organizers: Fenneke Sysling and Hieke Huistra (University of Utrecht)


This workshop is organized as part of the project The Quantified Self: a history – funded through the Veni Innovational Research Incentives Scheme of the Dutch Science Foundation (NWO) and with support of the Descartes Centre for the History and Philosophy of the Sciences and the Humanities in Utrecht.