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Self-Observation in the Digital Age Beitrag open-access

The Quantified Self, Neoliberalism, and the Paradoxes of Contemporary Individualism

Ulfried Reichardt

Amerikastudien/American Studies, Volume 63 (2018), Issue 1, Page 99 - 117

Self-tracking by means of digital devices has become a common practice during the last decade. By investigating this most recent form of self-observation, which can be situated within the context of the Western history of the individual, this essay will discuss the consequences of quantification as well as of contemporary neoliberalism on the formation of the self. At this moment, I will argue, we have come to a point where the stress on individualization has reached a tipping point: even the most intimate has become public and is controlled and used by agencies often unknown to the individual person, thus contradicting the concomitant claim of freedom of choice. This is particularly evident in U.S. culture and society which, according to surveys, is globally the most individualistic culture. The concept of “the Quantified Self” will therefore be examined in regard to contemporary paradoxes of self-knowledge and self-formation.


The Network as a Category in Cultural Studies and as a Model for Conceptualizing America Beitrag open-access

Ulfried Reichardt

Amerikastudien/American Studies, Volume 60 (2016), Issue 1, Page 17 - 35

The article presents a short survey of the definitions, areas of use, and terminological properties of ‘the network.’ Networks are understood as empirical entities as well as conceptual models, and the network is conceived of as a descriptive as well as an analytical category. Its main properties are recursive interconnectivity, nodality, as well as distributed agency. The links are at least as important as the individual nodes, and networks are always dynamic and emergent entities. The essay discusses representations of networks as well as the network itself as a form of representation. It looks at the Internet as the master network of our times, at knowledge networks, as well as at globalization—which can be conceptualized within the model—and then discusses the ways in which ‘America’ can be better understood by thinking about it in terms of network structures. This concerns early uses of the metaphor in literature, the shift to relational and processual thinking in Pragmatism, as well as political structures. Finally, network structures are explored in narration, painting, as well as music. The article introduces the conceptual tools and framework for the more specifically focused essays that follow in this issue.


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Current Issue

Issue 1 / 2021

Common Grounds? American Democracy after Trump. Cedric Essi, Heike Paul, and Boris Vormann (Guest Editors)