Posts tagged ‘big data’
“The imaginary universe is a place of astonishing richness and diversity: here are worlds created to satisfy an urgent desire for perfection, immaculate utopias such as Christianopolis or Victoria that hardly breathe; others, like Narnia or Wonderland, brought to life to find a home for magic, where the impossible does not clash with its surroundings; yet others, like Dream Kingdom, built to satisfy travellers bored with reality ….”
– Alberto Manguel, The Dictionary of Imaginary Places
Now was once an unconsidered state. It was undistinguished as air, valueless as belly lint. Now was whatever you were doing at the moment, whatever was happening around you or somewhere else at a given instant. It was an adverb, not a place like Cleveland.
‘I was giving birth to our son, and instead of holding my hand and hugging me he was sitting in the corner entering the time between my contractions into a spreadsheet.’
Joe and Lisa Betts-LaCroix, self-trackers
There is a new logic afoot. It is a meme of staggering proportions that capitalizes on using the endless minutiae of everyday life to inform and enlighten us. From DailyBurn, a web site where you can track your body information (weight, body fat percentage), including workouts, nutrition, and challenges; to Sleep Cycle, an iPhone alarm clock app that analyzes your sleep patterns and wakes you when you are in the lightest sleep phase, the quantified self holds a compelling promise: to know yourself, quantify yourself.
The Blind Men and the Elephant, a story dating back to the 13th century, has been used by Sufis, Hindus, and Jain, among others to convey a profound truth: we describe the world based on local observation, blind to the larger picture. This parable of how we understand the world now comes with a twist. Today as vast quantities of information come via numerous communication tools, each tool gives us a useful but incomplete view. Once the world was a simple, lone elephant; now the world is buzzing with digital pachyderms. The story rings true while it has gone high-tech: we are still groping around for a comprehensive understanding but now the elephants are in stampede.
A recent burglary at the home of Washington Post writer and editor Marc Fisher was documented by a Facebook boast. The burglar took Fisher’s new coat, his son’s iPod, savings bonds, cash and a laptop. Then the burglar opened his son’s laptop computer and posted a photo of himself to the boy’s Facebook page. In the photo, the burglar flashes the stolen cash and is wearing Fisher’s winter coat.