Tag Archives: quantification

Algorithmic Psychometrics and the Scalable Subject

Luke Stark

As a follow up to our recent post highlighting Luke Stark’s Slate piece on “The Long History of Computer Science and Psychology Comes Into View,” we point you to Stark’s forthcoming piece in the April issue of Social Studies of Science. Now available online as a preprint, the article explores what Stark terms the “scalable subject” in relation to the history of the psy-disciplines and the ongoing big data controversies around Facebook and Cambridge Analytica. Full details below.

“Algorithmic Psychometrics and the Scalable Subject,” by Luke Stark. Abstract:

Recent public controversies, ranging from the 2014 Facebook ‘emotional contagion’ study to psychographic data profiling by Cambridge Analytica in the 2016 American presidential election, Brexit referendum and elsewhere, signal watershed moments in which the intersecting trajectories of psychology and computer science have become matters of public concern. The entangled history of these two fields grounds the application of applied psychological techniques to digital technologies, and an investment in applying calculability to human subjectivity. Today, a quantifiable psychological subject position has been translated, via ‘big data’ sets and algorithmic analysis, into a model subject amenable to classification through digital media platforms. I term this position the ‘scalable subject’, arguing it has been shaped and made legible by algorithmic psychometrics – a broad set of affordances in digital platforms shaped by psychology and the behavioral sciences. In describing the contours of this ‘scalable subject’, this paper highlights the urgent need for renewed attention from STS scholars on the psy sciences, and on a computational politics attentive to psychology, emotional expression, and sociality via digital media.

You can find the full piece here.

HoP: Stratification Theories, Quantification of Virtue, James’s Heidelberg Fiasco

The February 2018 issue of History of Psychology is now online. Articles in this issue explore stratification theories, the quantification of virtue in Medieval Europe, and William James’s Heidelberg fiasco. And don’t forget to check out the regularly featured poetry corner! Full titles, authors, and abstracts below.

“Buried layers: On the origins, rise, and fall of stratification theories,” by Wieser, Martin. Abstract:

This article presents a historical analysis of the origins, rise, and demise of theories of stratification (Schichtentheorien). Following their roots in the ancient metaphysical idea of the “great chain of being,” Aristotle’s scala naturae, the medieval “Jacob’s ladder,” and Leibniz’s concept of the lex continua, I argue that theories of stratification represent the modern heir to the ancient cosmological idea of a harmonious, hierarchical, and unified universe. Theories of stratification reached their heyday during the interwar period within German academia, proliferating over a vast number of disciplines and rising to special prominence within personality psychology, feeding the hope for a unitary image of the world and of human beings, their biological and mental development, their social organization and cultural creations. This article focuses on the role of visuality as a distinct mode of scientific knowledge within theories of stratification as well as the cultural context that provided the fertile ground for their flowering in the Weimar Republic. Finally, the rapid demise of theories of stratification during the 1950s is discussed, and some reasons for their downfall during the second half of the 20th century are explored.

“Quantification of virtue in late Medieval Europe,” by Kemp, Simon. Abstract:

Fourteenth century Europe saw a growing interest in quantification. This interest has been well studied by historians of physical sciences, but medieval scholars were also interested in the quantification of psychological qualities. In general, the quantification issues addressed by medieval scholars were theoretical, even (by our standards) mathematical, rather than those of practical measurement. There was recognition that the seriousness of a sin and the penance laid down for it should be proportionate. A number of late medieval scholars were interested in the quantification of caritas, a Latin word that is translatable as charity or loving benevolence. The scholastic interest linked to the practical issue of how caritas might become habitual through the repeated performance of virtuous acts. Gregory of Rimini’s treatment of caritas in his commentary on Peter Lombard’s Sentences illustrates how one medieval scholar related the quantification of virtue to the quantification of physical qualities such as temperature and luminescence.

“William James and the Heidelberg fiasco,” by Gundlach, Horst. Abstract: Continue reading HoP: Stratification Theories, Quantification of Virtue, James’s Heidelberg Fiasco