The Measured Life – Productive and Counterproductive Consequences of Quantification in the Digitally Optimising Society

Project Heads: Prof. Dr. Vera King, Prof. Dr. Benigna Gerisch, Prof. Dr. Hartmut Rosa

Project heads of the transdisciplinary project

Prof. Dr. Vera King (Spokesowman; Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität Frankfurt/Main and Sigmund-Freud-Institut Frankfurt/Main), Prof. Dr. Benigna Gerisch (IPU Berlin), Prof. Dr. Hartmut Rosa (Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena and Max Weber Centre for Advanced Cultural and Social Studies Erfurt)

Financial Support

Supported by the VolkswagenStiftung in the context of the “Key Issues for Research and Society” support initiative

Project duration
January 2018 – January 2023

Data phase
August 2018 – February 2020


Research Objective

The subject of the project are the ambivalent consequences of an optimisation logic that is focused to a great extent on quantitative increases, which have gained in importance over the course of the digital revolution. Utilising a tripartite project design, the intention is to study productive and counterproductive dimensions of "orientation by numbers" and of the measurement of life in the context of organisational and individual digital optimisation processes and with regard to their intersubjective and psychic meanings.

Thus, the project builds upon the "Difficulties of Perfection in the Accelerated Modern Age. Current Cultural Transformation of Self Images, Relationship Structures and Body Practices" (APAS) project funded by the Volkswagen Foundation in the context of its "Key Themes for Science and Society" programme. It has researched the meaning and consequences of the requirements for an optimisation of social practices in differing social fields and areas of life and with a view to changes in cultural norms and constructs of "normality" and "pathology".

In this respect, the subprojects are examining the following areas of digitally quantifying optimisation:

SP I (Jena): The significance of and orientation by numbers in the action-taking practices and interaction modes of professional organisations.
SP II (Frankfurt am Main): The significance of and orientation by numbers especially in the relationship structures in social media in relation to non-digital and face-to-face communications (Frankfurt) as well as in relation to groups of patients (Berlin Sample).
SP III (Berlin): The significance of and orientation by numbers under specific consideration of the body practices of patients as well as in relation to non-patients (Frankfurt Sample).

With its tripartite transdisciplinary study design and by means of method triangulation (with quantitative and various qualitative approaches), the study continues the route already taken successfully in the APAS project of analysing interrelations and connections between various levels of social life as well as the tensions of normalisations and changes in practice through to the potentials for excessive demands and pathology, in addition to developing new conceptual and methodological approaches to the analysis of the mediations of society and the individual, culture and the psyche.


Vera King, Benigna Gerisch (Hg.) (2019). Doppelheft der PSYCHE- Zeitschrift für Psychoanalyse und ihre Anwendungen zum Thema Digitalisierung, 73. Jhg., 9/10.

Vera King, Benigna Gerisch, Hartmut Rosa, Julia Schreiber, Charlotte Findeis, Diana Lindner, ­Benedikt Salfeld, Micha Schlichting, Maike Stenger und Stella Voigt, 2019: Psychische Bedeutungen des digitalen Messens, Zählens und Vergleichens. PSYCHE 73: S. 744-770.

Vera King, Benigna Gerisch (2018): Selbstvermessung als Optimierungsform und Abwehrkorsett. Fallstudie eines begeisterten Self-Trackers. In: PSYCHOSOZIAL, Das sich vermessende Selbst – Self-Tracking und Lifelogging zwischen Spielerei und Subjektivierungsform, Oswald Balandis und Jürgen Straub (Hg.). 41. Jhg., 152: S. 35-46.