Black and White Romanticism

Image by Grace Russell

Strong opinions throughout the social web bear a resemeblance to  the 19th century romantic movement. Consider the sheer force of emotional passion and righteousness behind espoused ideals.

The romantic movement responded to the constraints of the early industrial era and enlightenment, a way for the mind to break free from the machine. Purity in terror or love or freedom — expressed in art and movements like nationalism — dominated the 19th century psyche.

What’s old is new again, I suppose. That shouldn’t be surprising though.

Today we face a new confining threat to our identities, the digital definition of who we are. Online identity is expressed through the social graph, and the “big data” that it yields.

We confront hard truths about ourselves, including how much or little we are liked, and why.  There’s nothing quite as humbling as realizing people like you for your cute dog instead of your brilliant political expositions.

Ads pushing products and services targeted by behavioral data tell us what we should buy. We fiddle with privacy settings yet find our lives read to us online, searchable, indexed, and found, not by people, but by corporate databases seeking to expand sales.

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