If the 20th Century was the fossil fuel era, the 21st century is the era of data; data has replaced oil as the commodity that drives the economy. While the burning of fossil fuels creates a worthless exhaust, the exhaust created by engaging with the digital world is itself the valuable commodity. The large corporations underpinning the internet collect our digital exhaust to generate much of their profits, yet they claim it is functionally worthless.
While attempting to navigate the increasingly complex and interconnected infrastructures of surveillance, data mining, and user profiling, we are forced to confront the uncertainty of largely not knowing how or in what context our behavior and personal information is being analyzed and how its value is being determined. If behavioral and location tracking can paint a picture of how we live, the communities we are apart of, and the most intimate details of our personal lives, how will our digital doppelgängers dictate our credit score? health insurance policy? ability to get a loan? sentencing time? or ability to get a job or be admitted to academic programs?
This section explores the new phenomenon around personal data anxiety, in which we are aware that we leave a trail of data exhaust behind and simultaneously feel as if we have little agency or understanding of how to control it. This section examines the fear, and uncertainty of being profiled, rooted in both an understanding of our current technological climate and speculation of the futures that will unfold.