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Data Love: The Seduction and Betrayal of Digital Technologies

by Roberto Simanowski Columbia University Press
Pub Date:
Pbk 176 pages
AU$42.99 NZ$43.47
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Intelligence services, government administrations, businesses, and a growing majority of the population are hooked on the idea that big data can reveal patterns and correlations in everyday life. Initiated by software engineers and carried out through algorithms, the mining of big data has sparked a silent revolution. But algorithmic analysis and data mining are not simply byproducts of media development or the logical consequences of computation. They are the radicalization of the Enlightenment's quest for knowledge and progress. Data Love argues that the "cold civil war" of big data is taking place not among citizens or between the citizen and government but within each of us.

Roberto Simanowski elaborates on the changes data love has brought to the human condition while exploring the entanglements of those who—out of stinginess, convenience, ignorance, narcissism, or passion—contribute to the amassing of ever more data about their lives, leading to the statistical evaluation and individual profiling of their selves. Writing from a philosophical standpoint, Simanowski illustrates the social implications of technological development and retrieves the concepts, events, and cultural artifacts of past centuries to help decode the programming of our present.
Digital interactive space is not only a technical condition: it mobilizes larger ecologies of meaning that cannot be captured by an exclusive focus on those technical features. Roberto Simanowski gives us a brilliant exploration of one such ecology, an ironic and critical take on contemporary society's ambivalent relationship with data.

Saskia Sassen, author of Expulsions

With the advent of the Web, digital technologies seem to contain alternatives to the consumerist models implemented by the culture industry as described by Adorno and Hockheimer. Simanowski shows how data economy turns this dream into a nightmare of hyperconsumption founded on hypercontrol.

Bernard Stiegler, author of States of Shock: Stupidity and Knowledge in the 21st Century

With this book, Simanowski joins Evgeny Morozov as an indispensable critic of our obsession with big data. What sets Data Love apart from other accounts is its determined shift of attention away from the sinister machinations of government agencies to the impact of seemingly harmless commercial data-service providers, as well as its informed historical focus, which ties modern data mining to the venerable project of enlightenment. Seek and you will find, a famous text promised two millennia ago. Search engines such as Google have renewed the pledge, but Simanowski leaves no doubt that the digital platform supporting this promise is turning it into a threat: Seek and you will be found.

Geoffrey Winthrop-Young, author of Kittler and the Media

Simanowski proffers a much more profound history and theoretical basis to the debate, a contribution unparalleled in its findings and with conclusions that are neither too radical nor too conservative. Without question, Data Love is the most comprehensive and philosophically rich contribution on this subject that I have read.

Creston Davis, Global Center for Advanced Studies

Compelling.... Simanowski makes an excellent case that the most essential struggle is not with the NSA or Facebook but with ourselves.

Jennifer Howard, Times Literary Supplement


Roberto Simanowski is professor of digital media studies and digital humanities in the English and Creative Media Departments at the City University of Hong Kong. He is the author and editor of several books, including Digital Art and Meaning: Reading Kinetic Poetry, Text Machines, Mapping Art, and Interactive Installations (2011) and Reading Moving Letters: Digital Literature in Research and Teaching (2010).