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In lecture on Monday, we focused on the elements of big data that are “creepy,” “weird,” and produce anxiety. We discussed these factors in terms of what data is (surveillance, capture) and what it does (prescription). For me, directed advertising, although it’s creepy, seems like the least threatening use of data since it is transparent in its functioning and effects. Suddenly your search terms appear in advertisements and Netflix updates its recommendations (Cerebral Visually Strking Art House Documentaries?). It is creepy, but it’s not a mystery where the data comes from or where it “goes,” at least in the short term. What, for me, becomes threatening is that all the data that’s being produced is, in the ideal functioning of the system, stored, analyzed, aggregated, etc.
“Big data” is one of the driving economic forces of the internet and related technologies. In recent years, big data has consistently led the market in digital technology. ┬áNot only is big data produced by and directly applied to processes of online consumption; but the ability to store, analyze and aggregate amounts of data that are growing exponentially drives both hard and software sectors in the digital economy.
I know I keep bringing my discussions back to labor; but, the production of data is an unrecognized manifestation of free labor driving the digital economy. Every use of the internet is a market transaction. Not only by using the technologies and infrastructures that enable such connectivity, but through the production of data. Data that “creates jobs” in hard and software development and manufacturing, for workers in corporate and government offices analyzing it, and for marketers producing ads for increasingly particular niche audiences. One’s internet use is the productive (labor) act which gives rise to all these others.