Nora Young (@nora3000) spoke last night on her research into how the accumulation of public digital data may affect all of our lives and the bricks and mortar businesses we work in. Nora is a host of CBC’s Spark, The Sniffer and author of a new book called The Virtual Self. The follow are notes I took from Nora’s thought-provoking presentation at Calgary’s Third Tuesday event at Melrose Cafe.
WHY NORA WROTE THIS BOOK
- we are at a watershed moment right now when data is ubiquitous and is being built, maintained, researched, manipulated and categorized from the bottom up
- digital data can and will change the bricks and mortar world around us
- we can claim our power to use data for good and become data activists
- these are the embryonic years of data activism and the users who participate, explore and play with the data will shape how technology and information is used by the masses
- when the telephone was first adopted, people weren’t sure how to use it and what the social norms would be. “Hello” is our current social norm for answering a telephone call, but other options such as “what is wanted” or “Ahoy” were considered by the early users
- this is the stage of social adoption that we are currently in. The current users of social media and public data are shaping the way we say “hello”
- we self-track everything
- there are a number of interesting productivity tools that are shaping how we work such as the following
- the data associated with self-tracking can be categorized in three ways
1. Body Performance
2. Tracking world experience
3. Inadvertent tracking
- if all this seems unusual, think back to the early days of Facebook when we thought it strange that anyone would upload personal images and update their thoughts on public platforms. Now have a look at who owns the largest public photo library below (I believe this is from Gizmodo, but can’t find the link)
- our daily lives are accompanies by a digital companion (cell phone, laptop, mobile device)
- digital data becomes more useful when it’s shared with people who can make use of it – these people can be anywhere in the world
- you can choose to participate in self-tracking or not
- say for example you’d like get home quickly and avoid traffic. You could use and share GPS info from your car to help yourself and others. The GPS way-points can help determine speed your car is travelling along certain routes. This can be amalgamated with other user data then used in a feedback loop to recommend alternate routes for others. This feedback loop could provide live updates so that other drivers can better plan their routes
- what if a disaster happened and you wanted to track vital information and updates. Individuals could provide testimonials and create useful information such as location violence during elections, swine flu outbreak, tsunami relief service – enter Ushahidi
Questions & Challenges
1. Privacy Issues
- have you ever read your Facebook service agreement?
- how digitally literate are you or your kids?
- by combining datasets, one could create information used for digital stalking as in the case of GirlsAroundMe
2. What will all this data be used for?
3. How reliable is the data?
- when does data become trustworthy?
- how do you know when to trust the conclusions the data is pushing you towards?
4. Design tools
- what values do we want to support?
- what social norms are we forming based on the user interface ie. Twitter there is no need to follow back, Facebook you have to approve your followers
5. How do we make tools that are useful?
6. Data Portability
- who owns the data?
What do you think of your virtual self? Are you concerned or excited?
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