Lecture: Erica Scourti

Today’s lecturer was Erica Scourti. Her work is directly interwoven with the concepts of the digital. She mentioned that personal information and intimate data is being read and turned into commercial value. People create profile’s online and these profiles are then treated like a statistical image or a second image of you. Because of this, she said that the online self has got a value and it needs to be managed because it can betray you and do something you don’t want it to. This directly relates to the concepts that have been explored in relation to my project as I myself have been looking at the commercialization of data and how data is used by advertising companies. I think that it was interesting that she mentioned that the online self (the sharing of data) needs to be managed as it can betray you because I have been researching exactly that. I have been looking at privacy issues and issues of persuasion and control by these companies that are sometimes able to manipulate who you are and what you want. The more data you supply them, the more efficient they will be at doing this which will allow them to make even more money.

Additionally she said the the digital has created a fractured and fragmented identity narrative. In other words, people feel lost and unable to define who they are. Erica then mentioned that people take personality tests as they believe that they are an objective measurement that can tell you who you are. This once again relates exactly to the same issues that I have been exploring and I have also already looked at creating a personality-type quiz on my website. I think hearing her talk about these issues reaffirmed their significance and now, more then ever I’m convinced that my website will indeed address issues that are in need of being addressed.

Moreover, Erica talked about the existence of a level of intimacy between a person and the machine. She explained this by saying that people don’t mind their computer knowing about their search history, but if a friend or someone else looks at it, it becomes a violation of privacy. I think this means that a search history is something private and intimate, it is something you cant share with anyone but your computer as it holds a level of trust. However, she also mentioned that in reality, a computer can easily betray you as your data is constantly monitored. The computer then takes a role of a leaky friend who gives away too much. Erica has incorporated these concepts into a fictional memoire written by a ghost writer based on her personal data in the form of URL history and user search. I think this project is very cleverly put together as she has given someone her search history in order to see what kind of profile could be created and whether it is representative of who she is as a person. I am very interesting in her project as it deals with these same issues of identity and data which I am exploring in my project. By giving her data to someone else, she has knowingly given her information away, while usually, our personal information is obtained without our permission or our knowledge even.

I think that the one thing that stood out to me the most was the concept that computers generate a level of trust. I think this could be something that I could incorporate into my own project, maybe have a computer screen that guides and talks to the users as they progress through the website? Maybe that will gain their trust and make them share more data? I need to explore these concepts further.

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