“We are more honest with Google than we are with any person: we google our problems, whatever they may be, as well as what we like, what we want to know, what we’re planning on doing, our thoughts - everything…. All this, amongst much, much more information - as we’ve all known for some time - is monitored” - Mark Farid, 2015
Datafication is the term used to describe how aspects of life are being turned into computerized data; this information simultaneously transforming into new forms of value. This is an outcome of the fact that digital technologies have become woven into the human experience, changing the way we shop, communicate, bank, travel, and go about our daily lives. The result, an unprecedented proliferation of digitized records and data. From health to interpersonal connections, from public administration to security, the range of human activities and cultural forms being documented and datafied is expanding. Digitized into binary numerical form, stored and manipulated by computers at unprecedented efficiency, the preservation of the most minute details of human behavior is enabled by technologies.
Burgeoning from this data landscape is industries collecting, storing, cleaning, and selling the trillions of data traces left by our movements through the digital and physical environment. The massive increase in internet usage and the ubiquitous adoption of smartphones render the amount of data gathered from online and offline activities as extensive. Please see Surveillance Capitalism for more details.
An outcome of both datafication and the widespread usage of digital technologies is that citizens become aware of and engaging with their data shadows. From monetizing (selling data), studying (self tracking and digital health), donating (to research studies or charities), or hiding (anonymization and overriding geoblocking), there are a variety of new digital cultural practices developing. Accompanying this are growing concerns around access to and usage of big data. This is in light of the Edward Snowden case of leaked information (2013); the contention of whether Donald Trump’s 2016 American presidential campaign utilized psychographics; The net neutrality debate; as well as the National Health Service (NHS) cyber-attacks. Today more and more citizens are questioning political surveillance, consumeristic manipulation, digital anonymity, big data ethics, and Artificial Intelligence (AI).