Data can be read in many ways and it can be used for a lot of different purposes. And it’s not just the things we type, post, watch, listen to, or sites we go to, but seemingly insignificant details such as the amount of time we hover over a link or stay on a page can give insight into what we think or feel at that moment.
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A huge amount of information is tracked, documented, and stored in the form of digital “exhaust” — metadata that is constantly generated by our online activity. Although digital exhaust may not seem so affectively revealing, it nevertheless amasses its own stores of feeling.
Digital exhaust receives less attention in conversations about online privacy than our trails of intentionally published content. As Viktor Mayer-Schönberger and Kenneth Cukier write, it includes “where [users] click, how long they look at a page, where the mouse-cursor hovers, what they type, and more.”
In other words, digital exhaust is shaped by unconscious, embodied affects — the lethargy of depression seeping into slow cursor movements, frustration in rapid swipes past repeated advertisements, or a brief moment of pleasure spent lingering over a striking image.
There’s no surprise that we are now able to analyze and make sense of this data now with the technologies we have. It’s a byproduct of the way we use our gadgets and devices, inexplicably linking ourselves onto the digital world in more personal ways than we can imagine.
Though there are risks to all the data we create online, it just goes to show how our interaction with technology and the footprints we leave behind reveal more about us and what we might be feeling at a certain point in time than what meets the eye.
(Image credit: geralt/Pixabay)