WYSIWYG – What you see is what you get?

A short presentation on Big Data and Digitisation at the Max-Planck-Institute fro Social Law and Social Policy

WYSIWYG[1] – Also for Big Data?

WYSIWYG, the supposed revolutionary concept that once opened a new world for computer quarter-literates is not necessarily applicable if we look at the supposed recent revolution: Big Data. More likely we find the emergence of a WYSID – What You See Is Delusion.


[from Leibniz’ writing on the Binary Code Calculating Machine]

The presentation aims on contributing from the perspective of political economy to an understanding of some systemic developments that are hidden behind a blurred understanding of Big Data and Digitisation. The following is guiding the development of the argument:

  • Moving from Adventures in Wonderland to seeing the World Through the Looking-Glass – Some Terminological Remarks
  • From Gold Standard to Sparkling Diamonds – The Economy of the Digital and Informational Revolution
  • The Lonely Crowd versus Crowded Loneliness – About Individual, Social, Public and Private Matters
  • L’État c’est moi – l’état, c’est-à-dire nous? – Socio-Eco-Legal Issues around Public and Social Responsibility

On the latter, especially four topics are seen as major challenge:

  1. Concentralisation
  2. Public-Private-Datachips
  3. Changed status of Employees or changed property issues
  4. The Firm and the loss of transaction cost

Some background material can be found here.

Here the link to the recording of the presentation  – speaker presentation: Professor Dr. Ulrich Becker.


[1]            What you see is what you get


New Years Thought

It is an old poem, written by Oliver Goldsmith, presenting The Deserted Village – and there may still be something in it that is worth to be thought about today – though …

Ill fares the land, to hastening ills a prey,
Where wealth accumulates, and men decay:
Princes and lords may flourish, or may fade—
A breath can make them, as a breath has made:
But a bold peasantry, their country’s pride,
When once destroyed, can never be supplied.

– though the peasant of those times was still the “worker” and the princes were the “capitalists” — in danger to be overthrown by on the one hand the precarious industry 4.0 self-designer and on the other hand the finance oligarch …

the same or not …?

‘My dear child, they would have loved you if you had had two hundred thousand pounds,’ George replied. ‘That is the way in which they have been brought up. Ours is a ready-money society. We live among bankers and City big-wigs, and be hanged to them, and every man, as he talks to you, is jingling his guineas in his pocket. There is that jackass Fred Bullock is going to marry Maria—there’s Goldmore, the East India Director, there’s Dipley, in the tallow trade—OUR trade,’ George said, with an uneasy laugh and a blush. ‘Curse the whole pack of money- grubbing vulgarians! I fall asleep at their great heavy dinners. I feel ashamed in my father’s great stupid parties. I’ve been accustomed to live with gentlemen, and men of the world and fashion, Emmy, not with a parcel of turtle- fed tradesmen. Dear little woman, you are the only person of our set who ever looked, or thought, or spoke like a lady: and you do it because you’re an angel and can’t help it. Don’t remonstrate. You are the only lady. Didn’t Miss Crawley remark it, who has lived in the best company in Europe? And as for Crawley, of the Life Guards, hang it, he’s a fine fellow: and I like him for marrying the girl he had chosen.’[1]

So, did nothing change? Don’t we live also today in a

ready-money society. We live among bankers and City big-wigs, and be hanged to them, and every man, as he talks to you, is jingling his guineas in his pocket.

Sure there are differences. Searching on the www, using google[2], just “vanity fair” [one difference: there had not been anything like the internet in those years], brings a reference to Thackeray’s masterpiece on the 10th position, by linking to a film from 2004. Though admittedly earlier entries, especially concerned with the journal of that name, makes reference to the work of the novel.

The rest is on “Show, Star, Costume e Cultura” “Star e Gossip” “Abbonati a Vanity Fair” costumes ecc. And on the journal’s website there is a section on “VanityFairConfidential” which seems to be somewhat a contradiction in terms – may be this is new too, another difference. And we have more “global guineas”, jingling on TV-shows, political stages and the like.

But there are also these obvious similarities – I will think about it and probably will re-write the preface to the second edition of my earlier work on “The Organisation” which is to be published soon.

Taking it from the context of another discussion, the difference may be that today the (upper) middle class is very much involved in this jingling. But it is so not by way of redefined values, greed talking over but by a very “simple” mechanism of an accumulation regime that shifted away from its productive base towards finance, though necessarily happening when we look at the inherent mechanisms of capitalist accumulation. Such casino capitalism, as it is frequently called, makes “their great heavy dinners” possibly not more intelligent, but the willingness and instruments to make them publish are developed much further – and even reachable for (sure, only part of) the masses

me-domains, suggesting

“You are one step away from owning the domain name of your dreams.

Personalize your blog, business or website. The possibilities are endless. Get creative!”

also some encouragement

I luoghi – Spazi dove imparare, esercitarsi e discutere

and ultimately the


Talking about the latter, we should, of course, remember what Kant once wrote about Enlightenment:

Enlightenment is man’s emergence from his self-incurred immaturity. Immaturity is the inability to use one’s own understanding without the guidance of another. This immaturity is self-incurred if its cause is not lack of understanding, but lack of resolution and courage to use it without the guidance of another. The motto of enlightenment is therefore: Sapere aude! Have courage to use your own understanding![3]

And understanding surely does not equal exhibition.


[1]            William Makepeace Thackeray, 1847: Vanity Fair

[2]            google Italy; 6/12/2014: app. 2:29)

[3]            Immanuel Kant, 1784: An Answer to the Question: “What is Enlightenment?”; Koenigsberg in Prussia, 30th September, 1784.