Salon: Fear ‘Big Data,’ It will Destroy Art

Andrew Leonard, writing in Salon,  complains that Netflix is now producing original content based on ‘Big Data.’ That is, Netflix used its collected data about the viewing habits of its customers and has produced an original series to cater to the views of the aggregated Netflix viewer.

‘Big Data,’ of course is a term designed to frighten you into opposing the collection of information about you by companies that wish to provide you with products that you will like. (When government collects data on you of course, its for the purpose of “helping” you, by perhaps locking you in a cage for thirty years.)

But it’s private-sector Big Data we are to fear because, according to Leonard, it will ruin art. This is art by algorithm! We’re simply making things that people will like!

In reading this piece, I was reminded of Paul Cantor’s  The Invisible hand in Popular Culture in which he discusses the views of Theodor Adorno, a cultural Marxist and member of the Frankfurt School who bemoaned the mass production of luxuries that could be enjoyed by the masses. Whining about automobiles and lunch counters, Adorno complained that in America, almost anyone can eat out and have food served to them at an affordable price.  Why, such rubes don’t properly appreciate that the only proper way to dine out is in a posh Viennese cafe. The smug elitism of European intellectuals is so ingrained, that even their Marxists can’t pretend to like regular people.

That’s pretty much the line of argument we’re getting from Salon today. Andrew Leonard might as well have been complaining a century ago that Henry Ford’s new horseless carriage is turning consumers into puppets: “People are buying these mass-produced cars that lack art and craftsmanship! Ford is cynically betting that they can just crank out affordable cars designed to cater to the lowest common denominator and people will buy them. We need to stop and consider the effect this will have on hand-made automobiles.”




11:55 am on February 4, 2013