Truth & Quantity

What counts gets counted: 6 years of numbers in radio news

Mar 10, 2016 · 2 min read

Truth & Quantity appears in a series of 3 projects, for which I collected & processed over 50,000 NPR news broadcasts. Read more about the series & its projects here: Breaking the News.

Numbers are believed to be humanity’s original motivation for creating written language. Sumerians developed the first known scripts in order to store records of trade, accounting & agricultural production, while written language for poetry, literature and knowledge only appeared much later. Today, these numeric origins still cast their shadow in the way we construct & experience the daily record of our world.

Numbers create categories and abstractions as we count things that are deemed to be the same and should be counted together. 7 oranges are reduced to the same kind of cardinal object, one next to the other; 100,000 refugees lose their individuality; 7 victims are separated from “7 others.” The precision of numbers charms us with a scientific voice of irrefutability: the more quantified a narrative, the more believable it becomes in our understanding, regardless of its accuracy or relevance. A world constructed and upheld by numbers refuses to investigate the intangible as well as the infinite, leaving many of our most existential questions unanswered.

Truth & Quantity is a project I created to focus on the things we count. It takes NPR’s hourly news updates and reduces them to just the nouns and numbers: 7 suspects, 30 years, 2 billion dollars.

The news reflects a world that can be counted, categorized and rationalized in discrete quantities. If the news is a narrative of numbers, what are numbers without narrative? And what is our narrative without numbers?


Podcast & MP3s

A selection of Truth & Quantity compilations is also available for download.


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Art plus/minus Data in New York.