The New York Times ran an article by Michael Fitzgerald last weekend entitled "Predicting Where You'll Go and What You'll Like" that profiled some interesting new advancements by Sense Networks. The article is a quick read and easily accessible so I won’t summarize in detail, but essentially Sense has made significant strides in data collection and pattern assessment of people’s consumer behavior facilitated by small GPS enabled devices germaine to everday life these days. Given enough data, Sense’s application Macrosense seems to be able to sort through data and establish (what seem to be) accurate probabilities for people’s consumer behaviors. Now, I’m on board with most others who spend time thinking through network science and the non-randomness of patterns and that’s not the trajectory of this post. What I am focused on is that eventually we will see a dominant way of knowing and choosing driven by wholehearted acceptance of these patterns as “real” (read subtext simulacrum, reification, etc.) That is, these patterns will become motivators for individuals to make the choices they make---the pattern will become the driver of the decision versus the reflection of the decision. In such a transition, what literacies or abilities to discern do we give up (assuming we do give up any)? And, given our positionality as social and interactive beings, is this detrimental? Haven’t we always wanted to be where others are and do what others do? The market is now just enabling this, right? Hmm.
Authors like Bill McKibben have argued that media and technology saturation that creates the multitude of data that we know and love also makes some information “go missing”. Examples could include standard use of GPS to know geography versus “knowing the land” or psycho-geographically following the smells, sights, energy, and sounds OR McKibben’s example of watching the Weather Channel/weather.com versus “knowing” the weather. I wonder about such contexts that GPS is able to create and if, as we adopt them, we are also developing a different sort of dominant calculus for how we know this world…a calculus built on market articulated “true” or “real” patterns as drivers versus patterns as possible reflections.