There is you. And then there is your alter-ego as constructed by all the hidden marketing that happens behind the scenes due to your social networking. You can try to control it through things like facebook’s latest privacy adjustment techniques. But as tech critic Sara M. Watson points out in a recent article in The Atlantic, when the two meet, it is still felt as uncanny:
“Google thinks I’m interested in parenting, superhero movies, and shooter games. The data broker Acxiom thinks I like driving trucks. My data doppelgänger is made up of my browsing history, my status updates, my GPS locations, my responses to marketing mail, my credit card transactions, and my public records. Still, it constantly gets me wrong, often to hilarious effect. I take some comfort that the system doesn’t know me too well, yet it is unnerving when something is misdirected at me. … it’s disconcerting to think that there might be a glimmer of truth in what otherwise seems unfamiliar. This goes beyond creepy, and even beyond the sense of being watched….
We’ve wandered into the uncanny valley.”
— Sara M. Watson, “Data Doppelgangers and the Uncanny Valley of Personalization.” The Atlantic 16 June 2014.
Her article is another good entry into the hauntology of the world wide web. While I’m not entirely sure that Uncanny Valley theory is the best way to understand the problem, there is still at play the phenomena of the “strange encounter” with a self that is not yourself that matches the experience of the doppelganger. Two other elements of Freud’s theory which might pertain here are Freud’s notion that the uncanny is triggered by a confusion between a symbol and the thing it symbolizes, and also perhaps repetition compulsion. What I’m trying to parse out, however, is what exactly it is that is repressed that is returning. Our past purchases? Impulses toward clicking on links? I’m still sorting it out.
[Thanks to Karissa Kilgore for the lead.]