Google and the eccentric’s apartment

Google’s servers are full of rags ‘n refuse. So are Yahoo’s, Twitter’s and Facebook’s. Across the Live Web we leave behind and they hoover up. They stockpile our refuse in their server farms like an eccentric recluse stockpiling New York Times in his apartment. News both mainstream and citizen, snapshots and doodles, post-it notes and birthday cards, messages and reminders, diary entries and details piled high. Dumped in databases just as the eccentric piles information on top of mementos, rubbish on top of value, the personal on top of the social.

When the eccentric dies the authorities come in to sort through the rags ‘n refuse as Jane Bennett has discussed in terms of her study of vibrant matter. They dig tunnels through the detritus, looking for bodies, for details, for meaning, for value. They trace the connections and try to put together a story. Eventually they connect enough to create a governmental record, a subject able to be filed, told, positioned. That subject is valuable. As a citizen, the eccentric can be a part of a society subject to it’s disciplines and discourses. A body.

Google’s algorithms and those of the other database ‘owners’ also dig through detritus. They trace the connections and stories through our e-rags ‘n refuse, our archives. They calculate and draw out the recommendations, ‘friendships’ and ‘likes’ that we have stockpiled and forgotten. Their data tunnels (whether they sell them on or not) are the value among the rags ‘n refuse. They tell stories of new demographics and new markets. They unpick ABC1s and remake them as ‘people who bought this also…’ or cycling fans who also read object-oriented philosophy. Every detail or action left behind, every link followed or sent, every search and connection can become part of new data meanings, practice and (governmental) relations.

We are repositioned as data creators and users, bio-subjects with data bodies that can be positioned within data governmentality, data disciplines, data control societies (cf Deleuze). IDs, membership numbers, loyalty members, the more data traces we leave the more we create our data homes and subject positions within state and Google governmental regimes.

Those algorithms that dig through the rags ‘n refuse are ‘intelligent’. They learn. They have a form of agency as object-actants in economic as well as data alliances. They generate ‘meaning’ and subjects. They generate other objects as they work, as they ‘do things’ in their world, the data refuse apartments we create.