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Data's Demon

I’m very much of two minds about the whole issue of “data-mining,” as Lev Manovich puts it – or “data-recovery” as others might say inasmuch as we have all contributed to that ever-expanding mother-lode – with which Renée Ridgway has invited us to engage in her recent, thought-igniting post. The sheer magnitude of data accumulation is positively diabolical – or at least demonic, to use a more genteel term for the hellish little fellow. Indeed, in a fascinating if somewhat sibylline passage in his deliciously premonitory novel, The Crying of Lot 49, written in the early 1960s, Thomas Pynchon imagines an ambivalent character whom I see as Data’s Demon.