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Once again human ingenuity has dragged me from the comfort of considering the pleasurable possibilities of ubilytics (ubiquitous analytics) to confront the friction that our ceaseless data harvest foments.

The always on functionality of our various collection devices, the ones we now hold and wear and soon will ingest and inhale, are painting us all into a corner where only one socket exists: rationality.

Witness this. A Montreal company today will sell you a biometric shirt that will provide your child’s coach with anytime, anywhere access to 42,000 data points each minute. For hours, days and weeks the shirt will stream telemetrics – heart rate, caloric consumption, respiration, power – while your progeny plays a sport or a video game, has a meal, cries, farts, sleeps even.

HexoskinFinal-600x543Hexoskin’s favoured branding image shows four tiny white boys all in a row. Their slight undeveloped frames and their sun-touched skin are offset by a deep black absence. The shirt: the wearable they’ll play and live in. A personalized panopticon that captures their physicality as a binary expression. Looking at that picture I see a static fleshy moment of human development: a display of pride, their demonstrable capacity to obey and comply, and a certain dumbfoundedness.

Against #bigdata’s backdrop what do their parents – and the high performance coaching staff to whom they defer – see? An harmless hawthorne effect: simply, the muscle, bone and brains of athletic neophytes responding positively to many faceless eyes? A forecast of personal possibilities drawn from petabyte-fuelled visualizations of individual effort? Or is it more basic than all of that? A matrix, perhaps, that crosses dollars with desire to prescribe a dialectic of enlightenment whose outcome we already know?

 

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