your online persona is showing

Ah, the internet is a minefield of distractions, all masquerading as information you must have now. The latest is a project from MIT Media Lab, called Personas. It’s an interactive tool that searches your online data to create a timeline/portrait/colorbar of your online identity. Watching it happen is like watching mini story arcs of your online life.

Of course, I had to do myself, the studio, my family, friends, President Obama,  Lance Armstrong, Dalai Lama and Wonder Woman. I did concepts like world peace and graphic design, and my hometown, Davis, CA. I did my friend Leslye’s documentary film, Sweet Crude. I even tried my dog, but alas, Toby Barbaria has no online persona.

Plug in your name and it takes off, giving you a wayback/slot machine experience, and finally landing at your persona color bar.

Me:

Picture 5

Lance (in progress):

Picture 1

President Obama (in progress and final):

Picture 4

Picture 7

Graphic Design:

Picture 6

Besides being fun and distracting, I believe this is also meant to be a critique of data mining, and shows how what appears may not be true. I saw one friend’s salary, and was also a little confused to see “military” show up for my name. I have two blogs, a website, am active on Facebook and Twitter, and none of that showed up. Go figure.

This is how the smart MIT folks explain it: 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. (Italics mine)

Seemingly authoritative or not, it’s just one more (very cool) tool for us to use to focus our work, and connect the dots.

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3 Responses to “your online persona is showing”


  1. 1 Leslie September 2, 2009 at 4:35 pm

    Yeah, the MIT introductory text makes it clear this is meant to highlight the inaccuracies and problems with data mining.

    Very interesting exercise, to see what comes up for various people with the same name. Only one of the textual excerpts that was displayed during the “collection” process had anything to do with me. “I” am also an athlete, a reporter, a hospital administrator …

  2. 2 scott olling September 2, 2009 at 7:18 pm

    I was listed as an artist with three things: books, music and education. Probably enough to get me a commission as an officer in the early 1860’s . . .


  1. 1 MIT TechTV: Your social data hits the big screen « Urban Bellwether | Social Media & Relationship Marketing Trackback on September 1, 2009 at 2:17 pm

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