Paper Data

Bin well alightI’m now starting to open up to data and what it means in our world. Big Data, Data Capture, Open Data, Data Visualisation, Data Science are a few of the data + another word that means something that everyday people don’t quite understand. And that’s because all of these terms are continually shifting meaning, because data last week is radically different to the way we track, collect, store, license data just a few days later. Smart people use smart machines to move quickly.

Let me describe a recent analogue data experience that we probably all identify with. Sorting out personal paperwork. This was only dating back to maybe 2004, has been sorted every couple of years but still, 3 unnecessary bags were collected of old addresses, inactive pin codes, my behavioural information. The bags sat for a while – no shredder, no patience and a moment of trusting alturism meant it all went it into the recycling as is.

Why did this feel alarming? Because the physical act of seeing my data printed before me and leave my personal space into the rest of the world felt unnerving. Who would find it, steal my identity, sell it, do other things that I don’t know exist that you can do with it? We know this kind of data exchange happens every day on a virtual level and that we allow it – we just don’t see it as clearly and so don’t often readily make decisions about what we share or connect with it. That’s also because some decisions aren’t ours to make.

There is a pointless smugness I have about not being on facebook. Which was a decision that came more from my obsessive usage rather than the data pillaging that it’s now so known for. But I have no qualms in ‘allowing’ my networks to connect to every other planetary thing in existence. And my iphone? What does it do there all day? Receiving, transmitting without me having to give any permissions. I’d like to know actually. Can someone show me? And just about getting my head around the implications of the Internet of Things. I mean, why not, it will make life easier, more stream lined, right?

Control might help here. Awareness of what is ours and what we can do with it.
Sarah T Gold gave a clear and exciting talk on the weekend at This Happened London about This was borne from her studies and currently exists as a proposal but really feels like we are ready for this Civic Network. For me, the data licenses underpin this alternative version of the internet. Jennifer Lyn Morone’s work is along this line of thinking and her recent film at transmediale highlights the quantified self – self tracking is where it’s at. 

Clearly, this is a new world to me. I feel out of touch and I’d rather rot be. So I’ll start reading more and genuinely work out what to do with all that paper. Because what happened 3 days after I chucked out all that old documentation? A letter from amex with a pincode for a credit card I never applied for. And then another letter for a rejected card application. I went to my mum and dads the next day and guess what, I sorted out more paper but after the credit card drama – we decided to chuck it all in a bin on a fire. Very dramatic. And this real life interaction with data made me think about the many many places it sits.


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