Sonifying the Quantified Self: Rhythmanalysis and Performance Research In and Against the Reduction of Life-Time to Labour-Time

Frederick Harry Pitts, Eleanor Jean, Yas Clarke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)
487 Downloads (Pure)


Today there is a proliferation of wearable and app-based technologies for self-quantification and self-tracking. This paper explores the potential of an Open Marxist reading of Henri Lefebvre’s rhythmanalysis to understand data as an appearance assumed by the quantitative abstraction of everyday life, which negates a qualitative disjuncture between different natural and social rhythms - specifically those between embodied circadian and biological rhythms and the rhythms of work and organisations. It takes as a case study a piece of performance research investigating the methodological and practical potential of quantified-self technologies to tell us about the world of work and how it sits within life as a whole. The prototype performance research method developed in the case study reconnects the body to its forms of abstraction in a digital age by means of the collection, interpretation and sonification of data using wearable tech, mobile apps, synthesised music and modes of visual communication. Quantitative data was selectively ‘sonified’ with synthesisers and drum machines to produce a forty-minute electronic symphony performed to a public audience. The paper theorises the project as a ‘negative dialectical’ intervention reconnecting quantitative data with the qualitative experience it abstracts from, exploring the potential for these technologies to be used as tools to recover the embodied social subject from its abstraction in data. Specifically, we explore how the rhythmanalytical method works in and against the reduction of life-time to labour-time by situating labour within the embodied time of life as a whole. We close by considering the capacity of wearable technologies to be repurposed by workers in constructing new forms of measurement around which to organise and bargain.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)219-239
Number of pages21
JournalCapital and Class
Issue number2
Early online date19 Sept 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2020

Structured keywords

  • Digital Societies


  • Marx
  • Lefebvre
  • Rhythmanalysis
  • Performance
  • Quantification
  • Quantified Self
  • Wearables
  • Time
  • Measurement
  • Open Marxism


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