Magical Data Collection

I recently booked a holiday with my friend to Disneyworld in Florida. Putting aside how ridiculously excited we are, one aspect of our trip definitely got me thinking.




From the Disneyworld website:

“MagicBands and cards are secure all-in-one devices that allow you to effortlessly access the plans and vacation choices that you’ve made with My Disney Experience.

MagicBands are colorful, waterproof wristbands—resembling a watch or bracelet—that you can quickly and easily touch to a sensor called a touch point. Cards work in a similar fashion, but physically resemble a plastic credit card or driver’s license. Both MagicBands and cards allow you to travel lighter throughout your vacation.

You can use your card or MagicBand to:

  • Unlock the door of your Disney Resort hotel room.
  • Enter theme and water parks (with valid admission).
  • Check in at FastPass+ entrances.
  • Connect Disney PhotoPass images to your account.
  • Charge food and merchandise purchases to your Disney Resort hotel room (only available during your hotel stay).”

– Source:

Guests can customise their Magicband by selecting their preferred colour and getting their name printed on the inside of the band.

My friend and I got way too excited when we were selected to received the Magicbands, as when we booked they were still being trialled. Having a waterproof personalised wristband that replaces everything from our room keys to our wallets sounds pretty darned convenient!

In our readings and lecture this week we’ve been exploring what David Bollier (2013) calls the “internet of things”. He says that sensor-readable RFID tags in objects “make the cityscape more digitally legible”. Invading the ambient commons, i.e. the areas of the built environment that we take for granted (Bollier 2013), is all too easy when every person in the huge theme park is carrying around their own integrated electronic ID that can be tracked.

Along with the Magicbands, guests are encouraged to download an app called “My Disneyworld Experience”. Benjamin Bratton (2013) argues in his blog post ‘On Apps and Elementary Forms of Interfacial Life: Object, Image and Superimposition’ that an app is an interface we carry in our hands, that is to say, a ubiquitous form of computing. He says that “the app turns the device into modulation of the hand” (Bratton 2013).

The Disneyworld app allows users to not only link but make every booking they could possible need when staying at or visiting Disneyworld, from resort bookings to dinner reservations (up to 6 months in advance!). It enables people to set up ‘FastPass’ bookings – which essentially allows you to digitally stand in a queue for a ride. This is a perfect example of what Bollier means when he says that the “democratisation of smartphones and other digital technologies have given commoners their own tool for reclaiming the ambient commons to suit their needs” (Bollier 2013).

While Disneyworld is inevitably gathering valuable information about the habits and movements of their customers, the customer also benefits from the digital integration because their experience is much easier to plan and manage from the palm of their hand. The app even allows you to see what the current wait times for every ride are. My holiday is still over two months, away yet we’ve made various dinner reservations and other bookings. Has the technological invasion of the ambient common destroyed any sense of spontaneity? Definitely. Do I particularly mind if it means my holiday is a smooth and magical experience? Not at all.



Bollier, David (2013) ‘How Will We Reclaim and Shape the Ambient Commons?’, David Bollier: news and perspectives on the commons, July 16,

Bratton, Benjamin (2013) ‘On Apps and Elementary Forms of Interfacial Life: Object, Image, Superimposition’,, December,




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