“We hear every day how data is affecting our world. But Living in Data is the first time we can really feel it. In this book, Jer Thorp has the technical expertise of a coder but the soul of a storyteller, and the result is a highly accessible, even stirring, view into the often-invisible systems that shape our lives.”
- Anil Dash, CEO, Glitch
"Elbow-deep in data day in and day out, Jer Thorp has learned to feel every vibration. He would like the rest of us to do the same, instead of accepting them at face value––or worse, using them as shields from reality. Living in Data offers no easy fix. Rather, it shows that the potential for change lies within us: in our human, fallible, hopeful minds.”
- Paola Antonelli, Curator of the Department of Architecture & Design, MoMA
"If Annie Dillard wrote about data, it might sound something like this. In turns insightful, hilarious, techy and humane, Living in Data is an essential book for anyone who’s wondering how exactly we got into this data mess, and thinking about how we might dig ourselves out.”
- Stewart Butterfield, CEO, Slack
About the book:
Jer Thorp’s analysis of the word “data” in 10,325 New York Times stories written between 1984 and 2018 shows an interesting trend: among the words associated with “data,” we have begun to find not only its classic companions (“information,” “digital”), but a variety of new neighbors –– from “scandal,” “politicians,” and “misinformation” to “ethics,” “lives,” “friends,” and “play.”
To live in data is to be incessantly extracted from; to be classified and categorized, statisti-fied, sold and surveilled. Data (our data) is mined and processed for profit, power and political gain. Our clicks and likes and footsteps feed new digital methods of control. In Living in Data, Thorp asks a crucial question of our time: how do we stop passively inhabiting data, and become active citizens of it?
In this provocative book, Thorp brings his work as a data artist to bear on an exploration of our current and future relationship with data, transcending facts and figures to find new, more visceral ways to engage with data. Threading a data story through hippo attacks, glaciers, and school gymnasiums; around colossal rice piles and over active mine fields, Living in Data keeps humanity front and center. Thorp reminds us that the future of data is still wide open; that there are stories to be told about how data can be used, and by whom. Accompanied by informative and poetic illustrations, Living in Data not only redefines what data is, but re-imagines how it might be truly public, who gets to speak its language, and how, using its power, new institutions and spaces might be created to serve individuals and communities. Timely and inspiring, this book gives us a path forward: one where it’s up to all of us to imagine a more just and participatory data democracy.