Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Let’s “Meta” one More Time

The New York Times Magazine had a “Riff” on Meta, called “Welcome to the Age of Heavy Meta” by Devon McCann Jackson (aka David Zweig).  A highly recommended read.  He says it so much more elegantly than I did in my riff, “Big Data, Megatrends and Meta Trends” in this blog back in July. The article’s subtitle sums it up perfectly: “Somewhere between Aristotle’s “Metaphysics” and “Family Guy”, the world “meta” became shorthand for wry knowingness.  But the advent of metadata shows us just how much – and how little – we truly know.”  

David, aehm, Devon gives us a rundown on the history of “meta” from the Greek word  “after”, “beyond”, “beside” and runs it all the way to today’s “Big Data” – which he calls befittingly “meta on steroids”. It goes off to a dark place fast and talks about the N.S.A. and the unyielding humorless, the lack of nuance of meta data or big data.  In my previous post I did indeed talk about the fact that meta data might be a synonym for big data and I see that I was not off the mark.  Meta has become so never ending, unchangeable, it’s numbing. David never mentions Orson Wells, there is no need to. This elegant essay leaves me with a sense of dread at the inevitability of a life completely controlled by “whomever”... it leaves me wondering if we want to shrink into anonymity and forgo our 15 minutes of fame, or go all broke and be ten pages of googable fame. 
David Zweig for one writes for the New York Times as Devon McCann Jackson. A gender neutral first name with an all Irish-American last name, granted I found out that Devon was David’s alter writing ego when googling Devon, but still: why?
David talks about how we portray ourselves in social media not as who we are but who we think others think we should be. He calls our improved selves, meta-selves.  Take a read and let me know what you think – I think he’s dead on in his riffing.

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