I Call Bullshit on ‘Data’

It is almost impossible to read anything in this era, print or digital, that does not include, somewhere, an overture to ‘data’. That is: the collection of information in aggregate, over the internet, by a sophisticated amalgam of software and hardware that now almost literally tracks every single footstep we take. This rant is not about scientific or academic data, it is not about earthquake models or astronomical observations, or complex biological and physical experimentation such as happens at CERN or at Harvard Medical School, no, this rant is about usage data as it applies to the the cyclical, seemingly cannibalistic, ecology of ‘insights’ begetting businesses to provide ‘insights’. ‘Insights’ of course being the terabytes of user and usage information collected for the sole purpose of delivering targeted advertising online and increasingly in ‘enhanced’ or ‘augmented’ reality settings, via whatever device is being used.

I mean, what happens if they have ALL the fucking data, down to the electron spin for every molecule in every human being on earth? I don’t really understand the obsession with more and more and more data. You know what, fresh water resources are about to collapse, the glaciers are pretty much done, and in the United States we have a bunch of asshole fundamentalists who are trying to return to the days when women could be tortured and executed for witchcraft. When is all this data going to do anything besides generate super-marketing-insight-wizard-sales opportunities? Another question: does this marketizing-branding-sales-advertisement-voodoo even really work?? I’ve never seen data to prove the argument that more data generates anything except more clicks or views, those clicks sell ads, but does it result in a measurable increase in the amount of product sold or otherwise consumed? We’re selling data to sell ads to sell clicks to………I don’t even know where the hell this idiotic trail of nothingness leads.

Now, I am far from ignorant of the deep ironies here, and the potential for hypocrisy. I have a blog, I am blogging right now, and I check statistics about visits here and for other electronic depots I maintain (usually for the sole purpose of rambling or whining), and I realize that without the advertising revenue delivered by all this data that many of my favorite websites would fold immediately. I’m just saying, where does it end? Is there an end? Is the hope here that eventually the future will be revealed upon a cloud of infinite, parsed, visualized data? Or is everyone just chasing a rapidly shrinking margin of utility?



    • devin howard

      Haha, I’m just being a contrarian. Data is, considering the depth and breadth to which networked technology is now integrated into our everyday lives, almost a prerequisite to a functioning civilization, from Netflix on up to power grids. The ad-click-revenue model though seems a bit vacuous, I just can’t believe that substantial utility (utility being increased sales) is gained from this chase for total information, for the collection of every possible data point in existence. It just seems like a big pyramid scheme where the actual products are ‘insights’, i.e. data, and not even really the ads themselves, they just pay to keep the industry going. Anyway, just being curmudgeonly.

      Good to see you have a new blogging platform, even if topically its a bit beyond my purview. Any chance you could point me in the direction of a good blog that tackles space or water resource law? Space as in: outer space, which might be obvious, but its a little odd, so I figured I’d clarify. Are you done with the bar yet?

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