Monday, April 16, 2007


urban rhythms 6: information and identity

See here for introduction to the urban rhythms series.

…you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O Clubcard of Tesco.’

[First book of Tesco, beginning at the thirty ninth aisle]

Data abounds. From early written records which have documented births, deaths and marriages we have come via medical records, passports and identity cards to databases, store cards, Oyster cards, GPS, speed cameras, ASBO tags and soon to RFID’s that monitor the location and use of products we’ve bought. Our travel, location, shopping habits, diet, credit rating, health and lifestyle habits are all being documented and collected. In public urban spaces CCTV tracks our movement whilst talking lampposts will soon discipline us for unacceptable behaviour. All of this information about us is then used by others, perhaps to market a product, predict behaviour or inform a campaign.

Oddly the data projection of ourselves begins to shape the world beyond us and can also be inhabited by others. Whilst we might assume another identity via an online avatar others could steal our identity. Somehow someone else becomes us while God is still counting the ‘hairs on our head’. We are not immune to this thirst for information and identity. We might project a chosen identity on blogs and myspace or use digital cameras and videophones to see and record the world. We can tend to experience the world through the lense, looking back at it in the future rather than engaging with it in the present. Non-photography day becomes a vital Sabbath.

presence | acceptance | balance | creativity | accountability | hospitality

Image: Small World, Martin Parr

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