Center for Humanities and Information
When: Nov 13, 2015
from 03:00 PM to 04:30 PM
Where: 111 Chambers

John Durham Peters “Celestial Databases: The Case of Joseph Smith’s Media Theology”
Fantasies of omniscience and total records haunt the age of Big Data. Many data-processing corporations cloak themselves in the celestial rhetoric of “the cloud” and Google co-founder Sergey Brin once stated that “a perfect search engine would be the mind of God.” Media historians interested in forerunners of digital computation have pointed to a number of book-keeping and data-gathering projects, both bureaucratic and religious, that point to our moment of superabundant documentation. In this talk, I will review such fantasies of heavenly and earthly paperwork, focusing in particular on the case of Joseph Smith, the Mormon prophet, whose startling ideas about linking the living and dead through records both cast light on and offer a counter-narrative to the Big Data projects of our time.