Accepted Paper:

Me, My Fitbit, and I: Self-Tracking and the Leib/Körper Distinction   

Author:

Kirk Besmer (Gonzaga University)

Paper short abstract:

The use of fitness trackers involves an ambiguity, namely, that the agent monitoring the tracking is not identical to the object tracked, although it's the same physical body. I argue that the phenomenological distinction between Leib and Körper is crucial to understanding this ambiguity.

Paper long abstract:

Given the widespread use of mass-produced fitness trackers, aspects of the so-called 'Quantified Self Movement' have gone mainstream. The impetus to track and analyze one's own daily biometric data raises important philosophical questions related to human embodiment. Most centrally, there is an ambiguity at the heart of such self-tracking. This ambiguity arises because the agent initiating and monitoring the tracking is not absolutely identical to the object tracked, although one and the same physical body is involved. How can this ambiguity most clearly be understood? In this paper, I will argue that the phenomenological distinction between Leib and Körper is crucial to understanding this ambiguity. 'Leib' refers to the body as the lived through agent that has a surrounding world; this is the body as the locus of all intentional activity and meaning making. The body thusly regarded is often called the 'lived body.' 'Körper,' on the other hand, refers to the body regarded as physiological object in the world merely as a physical object. I will argue that the body that is quantified through biometric self-tracking devices is the Körper, and that when we regard our own body as a Körper, we must do so from a third-person perspective. Furthermore, the seemingly objective third-person information that biometric self-tracking devices offer one is made meaningful only when it is integrated into a broader understanding of the body as Leib - as a particular, social, historical agent that has a surrounding world.

Panel T145
Postphenomenological Research: Technologies, Robots, and Human Identity