Quantified academic selves: The gamification of research through social networking services
© 2016, Information Research. All rights reserved. Introduction. Our study critically engages with techniques of self-quantification in contemporary academia, by demonstrating how social networking services enact research and scholarly communication as a ‘game’. Method. The empirical part of the study involves an analysis of two leading platforms: Impactstory and ResearchGate. Observed qualities of these platforms will be analyzed in detail with concrete examples of gaming features in focus. Subsequently, we relate the development of these digital platforms to a broader ‘quantified self movement’. Special attention will also be paid to how these platforms contribute to a general quantification of the academic (authorial) self. Theory. Theoretically we relate the ‘gamification’ of research to neoliberal ideas about markets and competition. Our analysis then extends to long-standing and fundamental ideas about self-betterment expressed in the philosophy of Peter Sloterdijk. Findings. Our study shows how social networking services, such as ResearchGate and Impactstory, enact researchers as ‘entrepreneurs of themselves’ in a marketplace of ideas, and the quantification of scholarly reputation to a single number plays an important role in this process. Moreover, the technologies that afford these types of quantifiable interactions affect the ‘unfolding ontology’ of algorithmic academic identities. Conclusions. The gamification of quantified academic selves intensifies the competitive nature of scholarship, it commodifies academic outputs and it might lead to goal displacement and cheating. However, self-quantification might also serve as a liberating and empowering activity for the individual researcher as alternative measures of impact and productivity are provided by these platforms.