Data Ownership

After reading John Cheney-Lippold‘s We Are Datait stood out to me the true importance of taking ownership over our data. This is something that Jer Thorp mentioned in his recent talk at Wheaton, “The Meaning Behind Data: Making Data More Human”, and something that I can’t seem to stop thinking about.

Everything we do online, comes together to form our algorithmic identity. Now the step that is often missing, is the self recognition of our online identities. Cheney-Lippold cleverly compares this to Lacan’s definition of a “‘mirror stage,’ he proposed hat infants become unified individuals upon recognition of themselves as an object in a mirror and thus begin to identify themselves with their own image” (169).

Cheney-Lippold goes on to explain that subject formation also occurs through symbolic identification, and this is what we see when we understand our online data. We are the baby and our data the mirror.

Our data when we take ownership of it, can actually show us enlightening aspects of ourselves. The data essentially shifts through all of our activity and tells us based on what we most often Google, what gender and age we fall into, as I mentioned in my blog last week.

Screen Shot 2018-03-27 at 9.17.10 PM

Last week, my focus was on gender, but this week looking at that same link I would like to look instead at the section, “topics you like”. Just from this very minimalistic amount of data given to me from Google, I can see patterns from my searches. This can be rather informative to who we are. I honestly wish I had found this when I was trying to decide what to major in, all my searches related to Film and New Media might have made it a clearer choice from the beginning.

Data is valuable, not only to ad companies and governments, but also to us. This is something Jer Thorp emphasizes. He explains that if people begin to take ownership of their data, hopefully, we will begin to see people taking more opportunities to use their data. If you would like to hear more about data ownership, consider watching Jer Thorp’s Ted talk below.

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