response to Art and the API

Thorp explores how we can use APIs to draw relationships between different data, creating new meanings, posing particular questions, or recontextualizing information.

Our world has so much data and our brains are fairly bad at processing much (or most) of it — words and numbers lose meaning as we’re exposed to them over and over again. As the United States nears a quarter million coronavirus deaths, each individual case feels depersonalized, abstracted. You can’t hold that many people in your thinking at the same time without losing the richness of their humanity in one way or another. We try to contextualize it with yet more numbers: “Coronavirus Has Killed More Americans than Vietnam, Korea, Iraq, Afghanistan and World War I Combined” but that can sometimes just kick the can down the road — what do those numbers mean?

With the drone strike examples, Thorp shows ways to humanize those cold hard numbers in a way that actually disrupts our normalization of them. Assigning names — especially names the reader is familiar with — to seemingly distant tragedies is an incredible effective way to bring them closer to our reality. APIs can help facilitate this process by bridging data much more quickly and efficiently than we could ever hope to bridge manually.