When I finished the last post by arguing that we must “move beyond the facile,” I don’t think I was being very fair. It felt like a generalization about tech discourse — one that is very hard to back up. After all, there are scholars on every side of this conversation: some claim that devices keep us from really speaking or seeing one another while others claim that the virtual is real and vice versa, and so on.
And where do I look for this discourse? Do I look at JSTOR or Springer for academic articles? Should I check the blogosphere or maybe the Amazon best-seller’s list? Or search for South By Southwest conference for panels related to “algorithm”? Maybe I should just do a search for “amazon AND creepy” on Twitter to find a broader swath of reactions (and by broader, of course, I mean those with access to and interest in the platform)? Short of taking on a proper sociological study on the discourse surrounding the quantified-self or algorithmic inference, there is no way to qualify truly what “people” are saying.
You’ll remember, however, that my first post was about the master/slave dialectic. Eventually, I’m going to position the companies advertising products related to quantified-self and algorithmic inference as the master in that arrangements. It feels prudent, then, to finish this post off by highlighting some of the copy used by those companies to discuss their products. You can decide if those headlines feel facile: