The Secret Life of Data
Navigating Hype and Uncertainty in the Age of Algorithmic Surveillance
304 pp., 6 x 9 in, 9 b&w illus.
- Published: April 16, 2024
- Publisher: The MIT Press
How data surveillance, digital forensics, and generative AI pose new long-term threats and opportunities—and how we can use them to make better decisions in the face of technological uncertainty.
In The Secret Life of Data, Aram Sinnreich and Jesse Gilbert explore the many unpredictable, and often surprising, ways in which data surveillance, AI, and the constant presence of algorithms impact our culture and society in the age of global networks. The authors build on this basic premise: no matter what form data takes, and what purpose we think it's being used for, data will always have a secret life. How this data will be used, by other people in other times and places, has profound implications for every aspect of our lives—from our intimate relationships to our professional lives to our political systems.
With the secret uses of data in mind, Sinnreich and Gilbert interview dozens of experts to explore a broad range of scenarios and contexts—from the playful to the profound to the problematic. Unlike most books about data and society that focus on the short-term effects of our immense data usage, The Secret Life of Data focuses primarily on the long-term consequences of humanity's recent rush toward digitizing, storing, and analyzing every piece of data about ourselves and the world we live in. The authors advocate for “slow fixes” regarding our relationship to data, such as creating new laws and regulations, ethics and aesthetics, and models of production for our data-fied society.
Cutting through the hype and hopelessness that so often inform discussions of data and society, The Secret Life of Data clearly and straightforwardly demonstrates how readers can play an active part in shaping how digital technology influences their lives and the world at large.