Current Students

Jaime Harrison

The Subject in the Big Data Era: The last decade has seen advances in both hardware and software which simultaneously track and measure users’ actions and deliver engineered feedback, such as search results, social media feeds, and targeted advertising. Critiques of these technologies came perhaps most significantly to the forefront of public debate in March 2018 when it was revealed that data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica had used the social media site Facebook to manipulate the Brexit vote and 2016 US presidential election. My PhD thesis considers how the contemporary novel has responded to the emergence of these technologies. So far, the response in literary studies to texts which respond both directly and indirectly to these technologies has focused on their role in surveillance. While the accumulation of data on individual users is an important function of smart devices, wearable technology and software applications, surveillance is only one aspect of a technology which also delivers tailored information directly to the user. My research thus expands the scope beyond surveillance to consider the implications for the subject when interacting with technology capable of influencing behaviour through algorithms. In doing so, it theorises a literary aesthetic common to this new technology. The computing concepts graph theory and digital logic are subsequently drawn upon to reveal how the underlying technologies influence and shape the aesthetic within these texts. Exemplary texts include David Foster Wallace’s The Pale King, Joshua Cohen’s Book of Numbers, and Nicola Barker’s H(A)PPY.

Harry Ransom Centre AHRC Fellowships—

Supervisory Team: Dr Andrew Pepper, Arts, English and Languages (QUB), Dr Philip McGowan, Arts, English and Languages (QUB).

Start Date: October 2017