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A Sea of Data: Apophenia and Pattern (Mis-)Recognition

This is an image from the Snowden files. It is labeled “secret.” Yet one cannot see anything on it.

This is exactly why it is symptomatic.

Not seeing anything intelligible is the new normal. Information is passed on as a set of signals that cannot be picked up by human senses. Contemporary perception is machinic to large degrees. The spectrum of human vision only covers a tiny part of it. Electric charges, radio waves, light pulses encoded by machines for machines are zipping by at slightly subluminal speed. Seeing is superseded by calculating probabilities. Vision loses importance and is replaced by filtering, decrypting, and pattern recognition. Snowden’s image of noise could stand in for a more general human inability to perceive technical signals unless they are processed and translated accordingly.

But noise is not nothing. On the contrary, noise is a huge issue, not only for the NSA but for machinic modes of perception as a whole.

Read the full article here.