22 October, 2015

On Maximum Security Showcase: Specters of Data

Note: Cross-posted from Ello

This foray into the long-term project starts with a confession: I finally got around to buying a copy of Specters of Marx months after I first wrote about it. I plan on reading through it before and during NaNoWriMo so I know more about what I’m dealing with.

Before that, I had some ideas about hauntology that I wanted to test out in the story. All of which deal with the other major source of conflict that I started writing out in June. That aspect in question is another character who is responsible for that “hearsay” through a start-up which merges both social media and TV news. I was inspired, in part, by Hossein Derakhshan’s article, “The Web We Have to Save” where he points out a metaphorical shift regarding how most users use the web today:

But the Stream, mobile applications, and moving images: They all show a departure from a books-internet toward a television-internet. We seem to have gone from a non-linear mode of communication — nodes and networks and links — toward a linear one, with centralization and hierarchies. 
The web was not envisioned as a form of television when it was invented. But, like it or not, it is rapidly resembling TV: linear, passive, programmed and inward-looking.

This, alongside the the algorithmic filters which drive networks like Facebook, brought me back to what a columnist mentioned during a talk at my university; clicks drove most of the front page content. The story’s start-up would compliment that notion, where likes, tweets, and comment threads would drive the rolling coverage.

That’s also where the “bare-bones” hauntology comes in along with that video on Murdoch’s Australian. Not only bare-bones, but personal as this start-up makes the showcase into a full-fledged throwback where those rumors become the top story. All because of of that data stored in those servers, and as Maciej CegÅ‚owski points out in his talk, called “Haunted by Data”, is very similar to how long it takes for nuclear radiation to decay:

The data we're collecting about people has this same odd property. Tech companies come and go, not to mention the fact that we share and sell personal data promiscuously. 
But information about people retains its power as long as those people are alive, and sometimes as long as their children are alive. No one knows what will become of sites like Twitter in five years or ten. But the data those sites own will retain the power to hurt for decades.

No matter how far they escape, data’s absolute nature brings back the worse of their past, both the main character and his friend, and morphs their adult lives straight in the volley of high school and college gossip. “You never change,” becomes a presumed absolute instead of merely an expression. Once that data goes live, they can’t change. At least the viewers will think so when that start-up goes live.

The visit from someone else was only just the beginning…

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