wasting bandwidth since 1999

A Snapshot of Your Online Identity… Maybe

I’m not sure what to think of this.

personas_smallThe graphic (click to see a full size version) was created by Personas, a project of the Sociable Media Group at the MIT Media lab and which according to their web site, creates a “data portrait of one’s aggregated online identity.  In short Personas shows you how the Internet sees you”.

Interesting, since in almost seven years of ranting in this space, I don’t remember writing much if anything about sports, fashion, or religion.  (Of course, there’s always the possibility that my name isn’t as unique as I’m assuming it is. :-)

Another factor that gives me doubts about the accuracy of this particular portrait is that in repeating the process, the sports stayed but the fashion and religion vanished, even though it seemed to be analyzing the same sources each time.

Anyway, it’s still fascinating to watch the visualization being built and, as the developers refine the underlying algorithm, this could be a wonderful tool to use with students (or adults) to get a snapshot of themselves online.

And as a starting point for a discussion of how it got there.

[Thanks to Karen for the link.]


  1. Doug Johnson

    Hi Tim,

    After Dave Warlick’s recommendation, I tried this too with similar results. Of course, I know there are musicians, football players and public nut jobs (Head of National Right to Life org), that share my rather common name. Didn’t spend much time trying to sort through everything.

    Doug (not the drummer for Loverboy) Johnson

  2. sylvia martinez

    Honestly, they’d have to be showing a lot more to convince me that this is anything but an art project. If you can’t click back through the final graphic to drill down to any details it’s not useful information, and worse, can’t be verified.

    There was pertinent stuff flying by as it “composed” whatever it was doing, with pretty cool colors and stuff, but really, what does this tell you? The opening page says “an installation by..” can’t remember his name, but to me, this is exactly what he says, an art project, not an information project.

    It’s obviously a decision by the artist/programmer to make the final product opaque and the process more interesting than the product. Seems like an artistic commentary right there.

  3. Dave

    I’m with Doug — my name is too common, but it sure is a cool tool. Maybe if it started by showing a longer list of sentences with my name, and I could pick out the ones (if any!) that are actually me.

  4. Aaron Zinman


    You’re right. It is an art project, which it says up front. In fact, its a project in a larger context of an entire exhibit made to reflect on a world overflowing with information. Not sure why you’re so hung up on that.

    And to the blog owner, you should take note of that and what I wrote on the homepage:

    In a world where fortunes are sought through data-mining vast information repositories, the computer is our indispensable but far from infallible assistant. Personas demonstrates the computer’s uncanny insights and its inadvertent errors, such as the mischaracterizations caused by the inability to separate data from multiple owners of the same name. 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.


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