Eye Candy from MIT

How does the internet see you?

I stumbled over this fascinating installation, Personas, that was recently on display at the MIT Museum by the Sociable Media Group from the MIT Media Lab. It uses sophisticated natural language processing and the Internet to create a data portrait of one’s aggregated online identity. In short, Personas shows you how the Internet sees you.

Enter your name, and Personas scours the web for information and attempts to characterize the person – to fit them to a predetermined set of categories that an algorithmic process created from a massive corpus of data. The computational process is visualized with each stage of the analysis, finally resulting in the presentation of a seemingly authoritative personal profile.

It demonstrates that the computer is our indispensable, but far from infallible assistant. Personas showcases the computer’s uncanny insights and its inadvertent errors, such as the mis-characterizations caused by the inability to separate data from multiple owners of the same name.

The project owners state “It is meant for the viewer to reflect on our current and future world, where digital histories are as important if not more important than oral histories, and computational methods of condensing our digital traces are opaque and socially ignorant.”

Try Personas for yourself and see how you are being portrayed.

Personas was created by Aaron Zinman, with help from Alex Dragulescu, Yannick Assogba and Judith Donath.


~ by john on November 10, 2009.

2 Responses to “Eye Candy from MIT”

  1. This is fun. It’s interesting, too, in that I recognise where the descriptions were pulled from. But the visual bar is a mystery.

  2. Was interesting, that top bar is a tad mysterious though. Only thing I can think of is it aggregates mentions/tags under those headings as a kind of analysis??

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