Advancing to the Next Level: Caring for Evaluative Metrics Monsters in Academia and Healthcare

  • Iris Wallenburg
  • Wolfgang Kaltenbrunner
  • Björn Hammarfelt
  • Sarah de Rijcke
  • Roland BalEmail author
Conference paper
Part of the IFIP Advances in Information and Communication Technology book series (IFIPAICT, volume 543)


In this paper we use the notions of play and (finite and infinite) games to analyze performance management practices in professional work. Whilst evaluative metrics are often described as ‘monsters’ impacting on professional work, we illustrate how metrics can also become part of practices of caring for such work. Analyzing the use of evaluative metrics in law faculties and in hospitals, we show how finite games – games played to win – and infinite games – games played for the purpose of continuing to play – are intertwined and how this intertwinement affects academic and healthcare work.


Gamification Performance management Universities Health care 


  1. 1.
    Kelly, A., Burrows, R.: Measuring the value of sociology? Some notes on performative metricization in the contemporary academy. Sociol. Rev. 59(2), 130–150 (2012)Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Rushforth, A.D., de Rijcke, S.: Accounting for impact? The journal impact factor and the making of biomedical research in the Netherlands. Minerva 53(2), 117–139 (2015)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Essén, A., Sauder, M.: The evolution of weak standards: the case of the Swedish rheumatology quality registry. Sociol. Health Illn. 39(4), 513–531 (2016)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Wallenburg, I., Quartz, J., Bal, R.: Making hospitals governable: performativity and institutional work in ranking practices. Adm. Soc. (2016).
  5. 5.
    Burrows, R.: Living with the h-index? Metric assemblages in the contemporary academy. Sociol. Rev. 60(2), 355–372 (2012)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    de Rijcke, S., et al.: Comparing comparisons. On rankings and accounting in hospitals and universities. In: Press, M. (ed.) Practising Comparison: Logics, Relations, Collaborations, Mattering Press, Manchester, pp. 251–280 (2016)Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Espeland, W.N., Sauder, M.: Rankings and reactivity: how public measures recreate social worlds. Am. J. Sociol. 113(1), 1–40 (2007)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Fochler, M., de Rijcke, S.: Implicated in the indicator game? An experimental debate. Engag. Sci. Technol. Soc. 3, 21–40 (2017)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Hazelkorn, E.: Rankings and the Reshaping of Higher Education: the Battle for World-Class Excellence. Palgrave Macmillan Publishers, Basingstoke (2011)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Fochler, M., Felt, U., Müller, R.: Unsustainable growth, hyper-competition, and worth in life science research: narrowing evaluative research repertoires in doctoral and postdoctoral scientists’ work and lives. Minerva 54, 175–200 (2016)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Hammarfelt, B., de Rijcke, S.: Accountability in context: effects of research evaluation systems on publication practices, disciplinary norms, and individual working routines in the faculty of Arts at Uppsala University. Research Evaluation, pp. 1–15 (2014)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Müller, R.: Crafting a career in STS: meaning making, assessment, and interdisciplinary engagement. Engag. Sci. Technol. Soc. 3, 84–91 (2017)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Levay, C., Waks, C.: Professions and the pursuit of transparency in healthcare: two cases of soft autonomy. Organ. Stud. 30(5), 509–527 (2009)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Bozeman, B., Anderson, D.M.: Public policy and the origins of bureaucratic red tape: implications of the Stanford yacht scandal. Adm. Soc. 48(6), 736–759 (2016)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Hammarfelt, B., de Rijcke, S., Wouters, P.: From eminent men to excellent universities: university rankings as calculative devices. Minerva 45, 391–411 (2017)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Wallenburg, I., et al.: Onderzoek naar risicoselectie met de basisset kwaliteitsindicatoren ziekenhuizen: op weg naar verantwoorde keuzes. Amsterdam Public Health, Amsterdam (2018)Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Berg, M., et al.: Feasibility first: developing public performance indicators on patient safety and clinical effectiveness for Dutch hospitals. Health Policy 75, 59–73 (2005)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Bonde, M., Bossen, C., Danholt, P.: Translating value-based healthcare: an experiment into healthcare governance and dialogical accountability. Sociol. Health Illn. 40(7), 1111–1274 (2018)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Bal, R.: Playing the indicator game: reflections on strategies to position an STS group in a multi-disciplinary environment. Engag. Sci. Technol. Soc. 3, 41–52 (2017)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Hammarfelt, B., Rushforth, A.D., de Rijcke, S.: Quantified academic selves. The gamification of research through social networking services. Res. Inf. 21(2) (2016)Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Bevan, G., Hood, C.: What’s measured is what matters: targets and gaming in the English public health care system. Public Adm. 84(3), 517–538 (2006)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Latour, B.: Why has critique run out of steam? From matters of fact to matters of concern. Crit. Inq. 30(2), 225–248 (2004)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Puig de la Bellacasa, M.: Matters of care in technoscience: assembling neglected things. Soc. Stud. Sci. 41(1), 85–106 (2011)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Huizinga, J.: Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play Element in Culture. Beacon Press, Boston (1955)Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    Rodriguez, H.: The playful and the serious: an approximation to Huizinga’s Homo Ludens. Game Stud. 6(1) (2006)Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    Raessens, J.: Making points the point: towards a history of ideas of gamification. In: Fuchs, M., et al. (eds.) Rethinking Gamification. Meson Press, Lüneburg (2014)Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    Carse, J.P.: Finite and Infinite Games: a Vision of Life as Play and Possibility. The Free Press, New York (1986)Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    Raczkowski, F.: Making points the point: towards a history of ideas of gamification. In: Fuchs, M., et al. (eds.) Rethinking Gamification, pp. 141–160. Meson Press, Lüneburg (2014)Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    Ruckenstein, M., Pantzar, M.: Datafied life: techno-antropolgy as a site for exploration and experimentation. Techné: Res. Philos. Technol. 19(2), 193–212 (2015)Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    Deterding, S., et al.: Designing gamification: creating gameful and playful experiences. In: CHI 2013: Changing Perspectives, Paris, France (2013)Google Scholar
  31. 31.
    Johnson, E.S.: Out of my viewfinder, yet in the picture: seeing the hospital in medical simulations. Sci. Technol. Hum. Values 33, 53–76 (2008)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. 32.
    Whitson, J.: Gaming the quantified self. Surveill. Soc. 11(1/2), 163–176 (2013)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. 33.
    Pantzar, M., Shove, E.: Metering everyday life. In: 17th Annual SASE Meeting, Budapest (2005)Google Scholar
  34. 34.
    Lupton, D.: The Quantified Self: A Sociology of Self-tracking. Polity, Cambridge (2016)Google Scholar
  35. 35.
    Wallenburg, I., Bal, R.: The gaming doctor/nurse: how practices of datafication and gamification ‘redo’ care. Health Inform. J. (2018).
  36. 36.
    Wolf, G.: The data-driven life. In: The New York Times Magazine (2010)Google Scholar
  37. 37.
    Ruckenstein, M.: Visualized and interacted life: personal analytics and engagements with data doubles. Societies 4(1), 68–84 (2014)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. 38.
    Pinto, M.F.: Tensions in the agnotology: normativity in the studies of commercially driven ignorance. Soc. Stud. Sci. 45(2), 294–315 (2015)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. 39.
    Viseu, A., Suchman, L.: Wearable augmentations: imaginaries of the informed body. In: Technologized Images, Technologized Bodies: Anthropological Approaches to New Politics of Vision. Berghahn Books, Oxford, New York (2010)Google Scholar
  40. 40.
    Kaltenbrunner, W., de Rijcke, S.: Quantifying ‘output’ for evaluation: administrative knowledge politics and changing epistemic cultures in Dutch law faculties. Sci. Public Policy 44(2), 284–293 (2016)Google Scholar
  41. 41.
    Espeland, W.M., Sauder, M.: Engines of Anxiety: Academic Rankings, Reputation, and Accountability. Russel Sage Foundation, New York (2016)Google Scholar
  42. 42.
    Hammarfelt, B., et al.: Advancing to the next level: the quantified self and the gamification of academic research through social networks (2017)Google Scholar
  43. 43.
    Deville, J., Guggenheim, M., Hrdličková, Z. (eds.): Practising Comparison: Logics, Relations, Collaborations. Mattering Press, Manchester (2016)Google Scholar
  44. 44.
    Stolker, C.: Legal journals: in pursuit of a more scientific approach. Eur. J. Legal Educ. 2, 77–94 (2005)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. 45.
    Davies, S.R., Horst, M.: Crafting the group: care in research management. Soc. Stud. Sci. 45(3), 371–393 (2015)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. 46.
    Latour, B.: Love your monsters: why we must care for our technologies as we do for our children. Breakthrough J. 2, 21–28 (2012)Google Scholar
  47. 47.
    Paradeise, C., Thoenig, J.C.: Academic institutions in search of quality: local orders and global standards. Organ. Stud. 34(2), 189–218 (2013)CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© IFIP International Federation for Information Processing 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Erasmus School of Health Policy and ManagementRotterdamThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Centre for Science and Technology StudiesLeidenThe Netherlands
  3. 3.Swedish School of Library and Information ScienceBoråsSweden

Personalised recommendations