REBECCA LEMOV    Book Number: 84693    Product format: Hardback

Sub-titled 'The Lost Quest to Catalog Humanity' here is the precursor to Facebook, Twitter and today's social media, a rich account of an attempt to record the world of subjective experiences. Decades before the Internet, a professor named Bert Kaplan used a soon-to-be-outmoded format called the Microcard to collect and store what he and his many colleagues viewed as the raw data of human experience. A Hopi grandmother dreamed of white chickens one night in 1949, a young man in northeast Pakistan saw visions of water snakes, four German exchange students and several patients in a Lebanese mental hospital answered psychological questions. It was the most intimate of data mines, made of thousands and thousands of Rorschach test protocols, as well as sets of fleeting thoughts, random asides, irrelevant enquiries and sad memories, life stories and dreams. Even today, the Library of Congress holds copies of these fragments in condensed form. Built in 1956, the archive's materials dated back to earlier decades of the 20th century and by the time of the last instalment in 1963, it formed a unique enterprise. This 'database of dreams' is one of the most promising and yet strangely forgotten undertakings in American social science, a dizzying social experiment. Kaplan, along with anthropologist A. I. Hallowell and a team of researchers, sought out a varied range of non-European subjects among remote and largely non-literate peoples around the globe and recorded their dreams and innermost thoughts. Almost immediately technological developments and the obsolescence of theoretical framework renders the project irrelevant. An informative and disturbing chapter in the prehistory of Big Data and our now big-brother style surveillance world. 354pp.
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ISBN 9780300209525
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