The New Nature vs. Nurture: Big Data & Identity
A baby born in the US today will live an algorithmed life. Her education, healthcare, career, who she dates, the ads she sees, what she reads, eats, buys, will be shaped by a feedback loop of data collected, processed, fed back to her, collected, processed, fed back to her.
We call this the new nature and the new nurture.
In the new nature, we know more about ourselves through data sources that we will have at our disposal. Information streams of personal and genetic data are increasingly available, but this raises psychological and emotional implications on self-awareness.
In the new nurture, retailers, corporations and government bodies use data mining to parse, segment, and sell to human beings. This marks a new moment for humanity: the algorithmed life.
The new nature and nurture create opportunity and peril. The increasing availability of data changes how we are able to know and define ourselves—at the risk of being defined by algorithms that we can’t control.
Jen Lowe is an Associate Research Scholar at the Spatial Information Design Lab at Columbia University where she experiments with new forms of data visualization and communication. Her education is in applied math and information science. A sucker for a good argument, she’ll nearly always side with complexity.
Molly Wright Steenson is an assistant professor in the School of Journalism & Mass Communication at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she focuses on digital media studies.
This is her 16th SXSW Interactive and her 15th year on the Advisory Board. Yikes.
Her research focuses on the nexus of architecture, urbanism, infrastructure, design, technology and communication from the 19th to the 21st centuries. She researches architectures of information, pneumatic tube systems, postal services, and mobile phone and social media use.
She has also taught interaction design for a decade and was a professor at the Interaction Design Institute Ivrea in Italy, where she led the Connected Communities research group.
Molly began working with the Web in 1995 at a wide variety of companies including Reuters, Johnson & Johnson and Razorfish. As a design researcher, she examines the effect of personal technology on its users, with recent projects in India and China for Microsoft Research and Intel Research.
Molly is completing her PhD in architecture in early 2013 at Princeton University. She holds a M.A. in architecture from Princeton, a Master’s in Environmental Design from the Yale School of Architecture and a B.A. in German from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.