For almost a year and one half now, every morning for me has consisted of a somewhat odd routine. Odd in that it includes at least one activity that all Americans could not ten years ago have done. Each morning I wake up, I shower, get dressed, eat breakfast and then check my phone for one thing; the polls. Perhaps, a sign of insanity, perhaps a simple act of intrigue, my mornings have included looking at fivethirtyeight, the statistical news site, for much of the last two years. My main focus; the U.S. election. Primaries, Democrats, Republicans, Clinton, Sanders, Cruz, and of course Mr. Trump. Specifically, searching that the latter of these won’t actually be elected, and frequently being reassured by the numbers that pop up on the screen.
The fact that these poll numbers are a comfort as of late in this political climate is a phenomena unique to our modern age. It’s data; hardcore evidence processed not by humans but by machines which couldn’t have any subjectivity. It’s a new language, as the emergence of the term within a language-english-can chart. That is what Professor Hanlon explored in his lecture, in what was a compelling argument for the fact that recently, humans have looked for proof of things and ideas in very different places than we used too.
The main shift Hanlon points out is the historical change from proof in science being displayed to the public on a purely qualitative platform, such as in Microscopia, to a more empirical quantitative manner. As science advanced this sort of proof, “data”, became the primary way that we as humans chose to back our ideas up, even if not in science. Hanlon argues that the increased usage of the word data is evidence of this, and that it has had consequences on how we live our lives as individuals and societies; right up to how we elect a president. And so it is today that we live in a world where evidence is synonomous with data, and statistics are given precedent over other forms of rhetoric. We therefore live in a world where logos is valued over pathos and ethos, something that is a new and presents itself in many forms.
The most evident of which is Nate Silver’s media giant, fivethirtyeight. In the current political climate it is given precedent over the media, the objectivity of a newscaster, because in a world where computers can completely eliminate objectivity, the newscasters objectivity is now subject. Hence we have found comfort in data as a means of supporting our ideas, which is a new idea in itself. We live then in a world undergoing a revolution of data.