A version of this post originally appeared in the 16.02.12 edition of Campaign magazine.
Billed as a dive into the “rapid evolution of data visualisation tools”, last week’s ‘Future Human: Transparent Life’ could have lost its audience at ‘hello’. Data viz may have become a hot topic in recent years, but there was also plenty of healthy scepticism in the room relating to its publicity hungry off-spring, AR. Ah yes, Augmented Reality.. which, until very recently, has had to work hard not to be dubbed Awkward Reality.
Yet a few minutes in, the event’s organiser and first speaker, the journalist Ben Beaumont-Thomas, had held the audience’s attention, wise-cracking his way through a history of human motivation behind how we portray ourselves in public (the 1970s neatly summarised as a ‘me’ decade of solipsistic confusion; the 1990s as an ‘us’ decade, the start of social transmission and an accompanying loss of privacy), before moving swiftly up to date, to focus on how we consciously and unconsciously allow increasing amounts of information about ourselves to be generated and left in the public domain: the ‘transparent life’ of the event’s title. And with that, the talk became less about bytes of visualised data and instead about something both simpler and more profound: human identity and the blurring boundaries between our private and public selves. Read full post