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The Museum of Vestigial Desire


Estimated Reading Time: 2 minutes, 34 seconds

Everyone wants to direct their attention only to information relevant to us. In these times of Big Data, an average user’s interest area and defining the kind of content they would find relevant are both done through analytics. By measuring how we engage with the information that we consume, platform owners claim to understand what is of relevance to us. The problem with this model is obvious. It is like what geeks referred to as “eating your own dog food”. In the technology world, the phrase refers to using the tools we build ourselves, but in the context of unpacking the idea of relevance the phrase can be understood to refer to how our traces become the paths open to us.

The media and content platforms that we spend time on do not offer us optimal and diverse choices for consuming our attention. In the limited set of content that is made available to us, our choices do not reflect our preferences. They only reflect the nature of compromises that we are ready to make. It is much like television, we can keep clicking and switching channels but it is unreasonable to say that we prefer the channel we spend watching for a few seconds more.

This is a key issue, our dis-interested drift through this landscape is being mistaken for a route that we have mapped diligently. While a few of these drifts are in-fact conscious and do reflect our interests (when we do research, when we are searching for something and when we are seeking answers), there has to be a way to distinguish between these two kinds of drifts.

Maybe, our analytics and profiling technology needs to be updated to somehow also be aware of our emotion/state of mind/mood when we are consuming any media?

Because of this flawed method of analysis, our real selves might hugely differ from our digital selves modelled from all data about our digital life gathered and tracked constantly. In a future universe we can imagine being in a conflict/tussle with our digital self because each of us will represent and pursue different desires!

At this point, we do not have many ways of pursuing our desires, to actually realise them. Because of this realisation of desires being a chance operation, we do not even pursue the desires very passionately. One cumulative down side of living in this marketplace/landscape is that we are being consistently trained to be laid-back/non-committal about our own desires. Most of us are floating around in a disinterested daze while we admire celebrities/socialites for living their dream! In fact, one of the ways in which the socialised marketplace rewards celebrities/socialites is by role-playing our fantasies - the rare someone who is actually getting to do what they want.

Taking all of this back to where it started from - relevance will only be decoded if we snap out of our daze and become more assertive about stating what we want. Even at the cost of remaining unfulfilled and silly when we don’t get it.

tags: drifting attention analytics

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