Digital breadcrumbs

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GPS enabled Aero chocolate wrappers, and online retailer Yoox.com’s claim that every item it sells is fitted with a microchip enabling the object to be tracked anywhere in the world, suggest that our need for digital literacy extends to the material world. So, do we need to understand the significance of the digital breadcrumbs that we, and our material possessions, leave in everyday life?

If you use a smartphone, then everywhere you go position markers remain, each call you make or text you send, every picture you take and website you visit is being recorded. With around 4 billion handsets in use around the world, enormous amounts of information is flowing through global communications networks. Along with smartphones, RFID (radio frequency identification) and sensors embedded in physical objects – such as the Aero bar – are providing more and more object data.

The issue of privacy around ‘personal’ information is of real concern for many people. Who is harvesting, interpreting and using this data? The answer is a diverse group, for instance corporations such as Nokia, Google and Microsoft, business start-ups and academic research labs.

We have invented the technology of reality mining, which uses sensor data to extract subtle patterns that predict future human behavior. By using data from mobile phones, electronic ID badges, or digital media to track these human behaviours, we can create a “God’s eye” view of how the people interact, and even “see” the rhythms of interaction for everyone in a city.

Prof. Alex Pentand, MIT

In order to navigate our rapidly evolving digital world it is important that we are able to develop the necessary skills, knowledge and competences.  In order to participate as fully active and enabled educators and learners it seems that greater appreciation of our digital breadcrumbs will become increasingly important.