A view from nowhere
Measure what you value because you will value what you measure.
Although calculation is considered one of the most transparent and therefore reproducible forms of knowledge, it is a convention that is made, rather than given, and rests on the fundamental idea that the equivalences that numbers produce – are communal rather than relations exterior to measurement. They are created rather than given, and reflexive in ways that shapes the categories through which we understand ourselves as members of groups or as individuals.
When we speak about numbers we often use the language of distance. Numbers are abstract, hard, devoid of passion, cold or even heartless. Numbers allow us to create knowledge without the distortions of politics or feelings; they are impersonal… But despite their capacity for producing distance some numbers become obsessive objects of intense identification and internalization. Some become the embodiment of aspirations or a shorthand for identities.
Abstraction, because it strips away so much of the local and specific, makes it easy for numbers to travel, to be put to new uses, to be inserted into new places. Numbers are also supposed to be bland and boring but that is also part of their power.
For those that aren’t leaning into market mechanisms made legible via metrics; critique or refusal increasingly feels like a LARP; the rules of a game decided in advance, each carrying something that, although it may look like a weapon, can never actually deliver a death blow.
The value of information is best determined by the systems that interpret it.