Data scrobbling and identity/mystery

Back in about 08 or 09 I joined Last.fm and at the time music scrobbling very much appealed to me. The idea that an algorithm could take my data, crunch it, then tell me something about myself that I couldn’t see; in the vague hope that something would emerge from the Big Data and the algorithm.

At some point I gave up on the not insignificant commitment to perfect scrobbling – catching everything I listened to. About the same time I gave up on the idea of data crunching algorithms telling me anything about myself worth knowing.

Zadie Smith:

“I am dreaming of a Web that caters to a kind of person who no longer exists. A private person, a person who is a mystery, to the world and—which is more important—to herself. Person as mystery…”

Sometime between then and now that idea – being a mystery, even to myself (I certainly don’t know precisely who I am) really took hold.

There’s a great line in an episode of Mad Men where Don Draper tells his daughter Sally, who is going through a period of older sibling anxiety over her brother Eugene:

“He’s only a baby, and we don’ t know who he is yet, or who he’s going to be.”

In that sense, we are all babies – always babies.