Social Hieroglyphic

Marx stated that value is a mystical force that “transforms every product of labour into a social hieroglyphic”. Organized by an invisible algorithm threading images to one another, digital images are in a very explicit sense a social hieroglyphic: a sign whose content and position shows to the mechanical eye the occult knowledge that structures the social world. Meta-data is the analysis of data patterns, trends, and forecasting of its tendencies driving these algorithms. Basically, it’s the reading and interpretation of data; approaching it as a conveyor of meaning, rather than just as an item for brute accumulation. In other terms, the higher abstraction level of meta-data is the 5th dimension or aesthetic infrastructure deliberately left out of sight. Nevertheless, some remains are left for the user to track and engage with: hashtags, likes, metrics… These leftovers remind us of the quantitative and hoarding drive tacit in scrolling. Yet, TikTok’s explicitly musical scroll provides us with something more: an aesthetic experience of meta-data in the form of memetic sounds. On TikTok, sounds are the sensible manifestation of meta-data, of meaning, or the experiential Rosetta stone of the social hieroglyphic.