Mo Data, Mo Problems

A few days ago I had a lively debate about data collection and privacy rights with some family friends which just happened to precede my 8 hour Comm Lead class on the same topic.  I have thought a lot about the collection of my data dating all the way back to when Amazon first notified me that they were going to begin collecting and saving my data.  My reaction was to stop shopping on Amazon.  I’ve since gone back (with a vengeance), but as the collection of data has expanded I have resigned myself to it.  I no longer worry too much about being classified by what I buy, what I watch and which social networking sites I visit.  I assume everything I do or say has found its way into the hands of the Mark Zuckerbergs and Larry Pages of the world.  My view on privacy has evolved, at least for myself, to the “it’s already out there, what am I going to do about it” school of thought.  My belief is that there is so much data out there that I can more or less hide in plain sight.  This seems to align with Adriana Gil Miner’s assertion that 90% of the data in today’s internet was created within the past 2 years.  In order to sift the good from the bad, the true from the false and formulate the right questions to get any real benefit from the wealth of data I’ve left in my wake someone really has to want it, and in my view, if they want it that badly, they’d manage to get it anyhow.

Unfortunately, my cavalier view on data privacy does not extend to my children.  They do not have the legal ability to consent to this data collection, and yet data about them can be scraped from my own web use.  Objectively speaking, I can’t really protect them from being “in the system” and that feels like a violation of their rights.

But rather than long for a world where no data is ever collected, I believe we need to create systems to allow people to remove data that  is inaccurate, is being abused or they simply wish to keep private.  California has recently passed the “Eraser” law to allow children to remove their digital footprints.  This may be the first step in the right direction, but restricting it to children seems to defeat the power of the legislation as a real move forward.

Perhaps the real solution is to allow individuals the right to license our data instead of being passive participants in the collection.  One New York student has taken to sell his own data on Kickstarter.  In doing this he can ensure the accuracy of that data and take an active part in the profits derived from the use.  Perhaps this is the real future.

And while I’ve chosen to focus my class reflection on data collection and privacy, I would be remiss in leaving out how overwhelming impressed I was by the work for the Gate Foundation shown by Ben and Taylor from Wintr.  The ability to winnow the bulk of dry data to identify, craft and clarify a cogent story that would emotionally resonate with viewers while creating an artistic interactive experience that did not dumb down their message balances the impossible triangle of technology, science and art without compromising one side in favor of another.  Kudos!

And then there’s this infographic about infographics which just made me smile.

13 Reasons Why Your Brain Craves Infographics

Beyond one screen, one interaction

Viewers no longer focus on a single program without distractions.  Our ability to view content when and where we want seems to be shaping  a culture of continuous media consumption.  Technology allows us to have multiple simultaneous media access points all working at the same time, and smart story tellers are finding ways to weave these interactions together to build richer stories.

With the growth of the variety of outlets for storytelling, we no longer have to create content that begins and end in video.  We can take advantage of the complex networks of social media allowing characters to live beyond the story playing out on your tv or web video.  This invites viewers deeper into the world created on the screen, driving engagement in a way not previously possible, allowing the audience to move beyond viewership into full participation.

And yet, while the appreciation of increased audience engagement  through these rich stories is accellerating, the tools to facilitate the planning and archive of these experiences are still not well developed.  In order to fully benefit from a transmedia story currently, you must be involved as it unfolds. We are still unable to archive Twitter exchanges in sync with Facebook updates ,Pintrest boards, Tumblr pages  set to unfold as your video is being presented in segments over time.

Additionally the plotting of this new fabric of additional writing and production spanning all of the outlets any storyteller has chosen to involve is still largely done via spreadsheets or in proprietary systems out of the reach of  smaller-scale productions.  Better tools to facilitate this type of woven story telling will help push this direction broader at an accelerated rate by inviting more communicators into the fold instead of asking each new player to blaze their own trails.  The ability to successfully archive these stories with some respect of the full viewer interaction experience in place will also increase the return on production costs by allowing an afterlife better encapsulating the full experience of round the clock story development.