Since the 1980s, higher education institutions in many developed Western countries have been facing competition for resources, have undergone economic rationalisation, adopted a New Public Management style of performance management and aspired to meet global standards of quality. This chapter explores the self-tracking practices of academic institutions and workers as they negotiate a field that has moved away from a quality evaluation system based primarily on social reputation towards one based increasingly on quantified outcome indicators. Universities typically measure research performance not only in terms of quantity of outputs but also the ‘attention capital’ they receive, for example, the number of citations or awards and prizes. These metrics and the emphasis on attention capital generally encourage a culture of competition rather than collaboration, while promoting the ‘celebrification’ of academic life. We argue that this trend has been intensified by technologies that gamify research achievements, continuously update citation and ‘read’ counts, and promote networked reputation. Under these conditions, academic institutions and workers have attempted to pursue a variety of positioning strategies that represent different degrees of conformity, resistance and compromise to the power of metrics.
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