Every single thing you see is future trash. Everything. So we are surrounded by ephemera, but we can’t acknowledge that, because it’s kind of scary, because I think ultimately it points to our own temporariness, to thoughts that we’re all going to die.
Interview with Robin Nagle, an Anthropologist in Residence in NYC’s Dept of Transportation.
I’ve just started her book, Picking Up. More and more I find myself using the metaphor of trash to discuss my industry’s obsession with ‘big data’ and quant only analysis. Using quant only data without any kind of ethnographic, primary research supplement is like analyzing the trash in a landfill to understand the present practices of a particular community to exclusion of other data: it can be done with limits and a whole lot of caveats. But also, I enjoy the mental picture of digital analysts swimming in piles of digital debris like click data, mommy blogger posts, and irrelevant hashtags.