It seems to me that all this talk about our desire for organised data, visual data, ubiquitous data (that, in turn, allows for us to be ubiquitous) can all be attributed to a mere biological system of empathy.
Mirror neurons are found in the frontal lobes of the brain and form the cognitive process of educative mimesis, which allows humans to watch others and imitate their actions, in turn, creating repetitive systems of gesture that form their understanding of human actions. The automatic response of these neurons to imitate another creates an understanding of human behaviour, and consequently, forms our basic ability to empathise.
We can note a correlation between mirror neurons and the notions of metadata and meta-communication. If metadata denotes the data that provides information about other data, then mirror neurons are, too, a form of metadata. Meta-communication describes communication about communication; so, we can see that mirror neurons are the capacity to feel what others are feeling.
Furthermore, metadata is used to organise other data, to access it and to reuse it. So, too, do our mirror neurons allow us to organise the actions of others into data that we can late access and thus imitate, allowing for a mutual understanding of human interaction.
It is this ability to empathise with others, which is crucial in creating the social bodies that will allow for metadata to be used as a ubiquitous network of data that creates representations of reality. These representations become the fundamental way by which we navigate around the plethora of data available to our cognitive processes and to our senses. Basically, what these mirror neurons are doing, is creating a virtual reality simulation of your mind; they are creating a theory of your mind by imitating the actions of others and this forms the crucial skills for social interaction.
Think of it this way: the invocation of the printing press, along with the popularisation of a vernacular language as a mass medium liberalised the thoughts and experiences of one and subsequently allowed for others to experience and feel similarly to the recorded material, thus, creating a network of data connecting one to others and in turn making one feel or think the way other publishers do.
However, can these representations of reality be taken as reality itself? How reliable are the mirror neurons of our brains or the representative images used to convey data in an understandable form? Freud stated, “I know where I am but I do not feel that I’m at the spot where I find myself”, and it is this notion of displacement that problematises this theory. If we’re using a linguistic or visual form to articulate the abstract ideas of our brains, are we merely offering only the ghostly appearance of the object described, and subsequently, moving further away from a genuine ability to empathise?
To say that empathy is the reason for meta-communication and metadata wouldn’t be completely accurate, but the correlations are evidently there. Mirror neurons are our way of making sure that we don’t end up killing one another due to a lack of empathy; meta-data is simply our way of making sure that we don’t end up losing knowledge while we continue a pursuit and preservation of it.