Monday, January 22, 2007

I fall in the average, therefore I am?

Thanks to John Daly for pointing us to a new book by Sarah E. Igo titled "The Averaged American: Surveys, Citizens, and the Making of a Mass Public." In it she demonstrates "how opinion polls, man-in-the-street interviews, sex surveys, community studies, and consumer research transformed the United States public." The American public, she argues, is currently awash in aggregate data. One result is that survey techniques and findings have become the vocabulary of mass society--and essential to understanding who modern Americans think they are. Huh? So as people become data-intensive, they become statistical in their sense of self? Is that freedom? Reminds me of a sub-plot in the movie "The Shawshank Redemption" with all those prisoners, many there for life with no hope of escape. The only one who managed to escape was an above-average kind of person who could observe and think beyond what the prison authorities and his fellow prisoners tried to tell him: you cannot escape from this jail.

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