THE CARRIER WAVE PRINCIPLE
Keywords:data ethics, privacy, media affordances, authorship, epistemology
In this article, we propose a new theoretical lens through which to explore the relationship between sociotechnical artifacts, the messages they convey, and the cultural meanings derived from them. This premise, which we entitle the "carrier wave principle," holds that there is no theoretical limit to the amount and variety of knowledge that may be derived from a given cultural artifact over time. This axiom can be understood as the result of changes in technological regimes and cultural modalities over time and space, and this has been true throughout history. However, continuing exponential growth in the power and ubiquity of computational processing have accelerated this process to the point where new modalities of knowledge production are now available within the course of a human lifetime. We located our analysis at the intersection of several fields of scholarship, including media studies, information science, cultural studies, science and technology studies, and critical data studies. We conclude with an exploration of the carrier wave principle’s real-world consequences and contexts, including implications for privacy, security, identity and subjectivity.