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  • Data Derives: Confronting Digital Geographic Information as Spectacle

    Jim Thatcher, Craig M. Dalton

    Chapter from the book: Briziarelli M. & Armano E. 2017. The Spectacle 2.0: Reading Debord in the Context of Digital Capitalism.


    Digital data informs, shapes, and defines our lives and choices. Smartphones, credit cards, official records, and surveillance systems feed data to companies and governments that collect, aggregate, and combine it to constitute what is colloquially known as ‘big data.’ In such systems, individuals who create the data transform into quantitative abstractions that stand in for them amidst global systems of capital. Data, then, is becoming spectacle in two ways: first, as a site for speculative investment by corporate actors like Google, Apple, and Facebook; and then again as the analysis of data reproduces itself as a centre of attention for the individual who produced it, often as geotargeted advertising, credit ratings, and location-based services. In such systems, the very turn-by-turn directions that guide us through urban space have become sites of speculative investment and separation through spectacular data. In this chapter, we explore the separation of people from the spectacle of their digital geographic data and thus spaces in their lives. Doing so builds upon nascent critical discourses in critical data studies and critical GIS that approach data as contingent, contested constructs and extends those critiques to open new possibilities for the production of situations. Specifically, we propose a counter-move to spectacularised data: the data derive, a playful, yet critical exploration of the points, contours and currents of digital geographic data. Drifting through data provides a promising alternative way to engage the subject positions, limits, and critical possibilities of big data.

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    How to cite this chapter
    Thatcher J. & Dalton C. 2017. Data Derives: Confronting Digital Geographic Information as Spectacle. In: Briziarelli M. & Armano E (eds.), The Spectacle 2.0. London: University of Westminster Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.16997/book11.h

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    Published on Dec. 12, 2017