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Rhythmanalysis, Concrete Abstraction and the Quantified Self: Sonification and Performance Research as Remediation of Data


ISBN: 978-1-83909-973-1, eISBN: 978-1-83909-972-4

Publication date: 26 November 2021


This paper explores the potential 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 working life. It takes as a case study a prototype performance research method investigating the methodological and practical potential of quantified self technologies to reconnect 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 were selectively ‘sonified’ with synthesisers and drum machines to produce a 40-minute electronic symphony performed to a public audience. The paper theorises the project as an intervention reconnecting quantitative data with the qualitative experience it abstracts from, exploring the potential for these technologies to be used as tools of remediation that recover the embodied social subject from its abstraction in data for critical self-knowledge and understanding.




This chapter is a short, revised version of Pitts, Jean, & Clarke (2020). This research received funding from the Brigstow Institute Seedcorn Fund – many thanks to Gail Lambourne and the team for their support. Some of the material on rhythmanalytical method builds on ideas first developed in 2014 for the Bonding E-Rhythms research consortium at Erasmus University Rotterdam, in which participation was funded by EU COST Action IS1202 Dynamics of Virtual Work.


Pitts, F.H., Jean, E. and Clarke, Y. (2021), "Rhythmanalysis, Concrete Abstraction and the Quantified Self: Sonification and Performance Research as Remediation of Data", Lyon, D. (Ed.) Rhythmanalysis (Research in Urban Sociology, Vol. 17), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 209-226.



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