Thursday, November 7, 2013

Datafication Redux I

Construction of the Tower of Babel by Peter Bruegel the Elder
A void has been created by the plenitude of information. “Datafication" is what Kenneth Neil Cukier and Viktor Mayer-Schoenberger termed this phenomenon in an article in Foreign Affairs (“The Rise of Big Data, May/June, 2012). It’s a flood, an inundation reminiscent of the horrible stampedes at international soccer matches or at discount stores on Black Friday. The crush of humanity stomps you to death. Brilliant locutions are packed like sardines and sent into oblivion in the juggernaut of social networking. It’s Borges’s The Library of Babel in an even more nightmarish form, if that’s possible. This may account for a new kind of anorexia, in which the desire to communicate which had previously taken the form of a poem, short story or casual essay is slowly dying. The dialogue between literature and readers is like a stream or lake whose waters become fetid if they’re not fed by new sources. The analogy is apt since flooding can wash out lakes, streams and rivers. It’s either feast or famine, a total addictive indulgence with so much noise being created that individual voices are drowned out or a drought in which a human ability, like cursive writing, dies through attrition. Literature however is just the tip of the iceberg. The faces on Facebook have become faceless. A true picture of humanity can only be metaphoric and symbolic since any crowd quickly, by definition, loses its identity, as it swells out of control and turns into a lynch mob.

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