David Golumbia and Hyperdata
Last week, there was an article published in the New York Times titled “Big Data’s Little Brother: Start-Ups Are Mining Hyperlocal Information for Global Insights”. The article was written by Quentin Hardy and explores how businesses are using data to collect information about how to run their company. Hardy begins by talking about the company Premise, which is currently “building a real-time inflation index to sell to companies and Wall Street traders, who are hungry for insightful data”. The company is part of a larger global trend towards using “hyperdata” to make business decisions. Hyperdata is a form of government Big Data, but it is data you can quickly access and use in order to make business decisions. In simple terms, the article shows that what has previously been considered government use only “Big Data” is now becoming partially accessible to businesses and can start to impact economic decisions.
Hardy discusses how Big Data is typically aligned with the State, a point also made by David Golumbia in the introduction to his book “The Cultural Logic of Computation”. Golumbia acknowledges an argument originally made by Deleuze and Guattari, which is that government tends to view society as striated. A computation is a tool that the State uses to make society fit their striated model; it reduces human activity to data which can be logged and computationally analyzed. The United States government is now allowing more open access to their Big Data model, which in turn spreads their rational model into the economic sector.
Perhaps the more important parallel between Hardy’s article and Golumbia’s opinions on big data is the role of computers in shaping our lives. Golumbia insists that we should not allow a computation to shape our society, ending his introduction with the wish for “a possible future in which computers are more powerful, more widespread, cheaper, and easier to use– and at the same time have much less influence over our lives and thoughts” (27). Although more open access to big data is not necessarily at odds with Golumbia’s vision, Hardy’s article quickly makes it clear how it could easily become so. He claims “the faster [hyperdata] happens, the better, so people can make smart – and quick – decisions. The role of hyperdata will be to connect seemingly unrelated data so that companies can make decisions based off of this information. In short, this becomes dangerously close to Golumbia’s dystopian vision of the rational, computational methods of analysis superseding all other types of philosophical advancement.