Living in Data: A Citizen's Guide to a Better Information Future

May 4, 2021
Living in Data: A Citizen's Guide to a Better Information Future

Jer Thorp's analysis of the word "data" in 10,325 New YorkTimes stories written between 1984 and 2018 shows a distincttrend: among the words most closely associated with "data," we findnot only its classic companions "information" and "digital," butalso a variety of new neighbors—from "scandal" and "misinformation"to "ethics," "friends," and "play."To live in data in the twenty-first century is to be incessantlyextracted from, classified and categorized, statisti-fied, sold,and surveilled. Data—our data—is mined and processed for profit,power, and political gain. In Living in Data, Thorp asks acrucial question of our time: How do we stop passively inhabitingdata, and instead become active citizens of it?Threading a data story through hippo attacks, glaciers, andschool gymnasiums, around colossal rice piles, and over activeminefields, Living in Data reminds us that the future ofdata is still wide open, that there are ways to transcend facts andfigures and to find more visceral ways to engage with data, thatthere are always new stories to be told about how data can be used.Punctuated with Thorp's original and informative illustrations,Living in Data not only redefines what data is, butreimagines who gets to speak its language and how to use its powerto create a more just and democratic future. Timely and inspiring,Living in Data gives us a much-needed path forward.