Living with/as data: Ubiquity and the distributed self

One of the most striking aspects of the lecture was the idea that the complexity of the modern media force us to question what reality really is. In contemporary society we consider that the media ‘RE-present’ (as the lecture notes put it) what we see without change… we consider images in the paper to be exactly how the reality is. This culture of believing every image we see has the potential to allow images to take over from reality.

An example of society’s heavy focus on image rather than the context, reality of the situation or message behind the image is the media’s presentation of politics. In politics we are becoming increasingly concerned with the image of politicians (especially, in a somewhat sexist manner, since we have had the first female Prime Minister) rather than their message.

Herein a significant issue of contemporary society arises: when the visual represents something which it shouldn’t represent or something which doesn’t exist.

Baudrillard talks about images and pictures as a substitute for the world. He claims that there are several phases which lead to this which include:

1. When images are the reflection of basic reality

2. When they mask and pervert reality

3. This leads to images masking the absence of basic reality — an example for this is Disneyland through its representation of an entirely alternate world

4. Which in sum leads to zero relation to reality whatsoever

A map of Disneyland’s alternate realities created by images

Life therefore has the potential to become an alternate reality presented through images and data on various media platforms.

Andrew went on the further talk about the reality of data and how we in society act as our own systems of data.

He spoke about metadata which is a set of data which gives information about other data. Although sounding strange and confusing this concept is actually quite simple. A distinct example of metadata would be an iTunes playlist as it is a data system that organises and stores MP3 data. The redistribution of data and metadata is important to understand as it has the potential to change factions of society, most notably through aggregation and the ‘niche-ing’ of yourself.

Aggregation is the process by metadata collects data and stores it in one place. This can be done by corporations as a method of profiteering (eg. Google news aggregates data [somewhat controversially] from various news sites) or as a personal method of organising your own life (eg. through Facebook news feeds). This aggregation of data has changed the way in which society functions as it allows for a mix of everything you are interesting in to accumulate in one space. Similarly this flow of data individualises everyone and creates a niche market out of everyone in society. This is changing the way in which advertising and marketing functions by needing to appeal to all of your specific and individual niche traits.


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