Visualizing Data

A friend wanted me to see this public service announcement, which is an excellent visual display of quantitative information and a good way to provoke guilt:

When he sent me the link, he routed me through this awesome blog called Information Aesthetics that has been around since 2004 (where have I been?!). It's an excellent compilation of some stylized substance that I have just begun to explore. One of the first gems I came across was a link to the Personas exhibit currently on display at the MIT Museum.

Personas 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.

You just put in your name and then this fun, narcissistic, and kind of creepy program searches the web, aggregates key words, and weights them to produce a sort of Google profile. Here's mine:


It's not entirely legible reprinted here or accurate (military?), although the large light blue 'education' chunk certainly makes sense. Try your own!

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Personas also (as the creators comment) shows how easy it is for a computerised search to give completely inaccurate results because the computer can't distinguish between people with the same name. My name (common first and last names) gives a bar that bears no resemblance to my interests (or writings); I'm tempted to suspect that it doesn't closely resemble any single individual with the same name....

Chrisj, I agree that inaccuracy is an issue for the reason you mention. In addition, I have a fairly unique name but Personas generates different a different profile for each search but I think the strength is in the concept rather than execution...

[(Persona Results - What you think they should be) * 100 ] / the commonness of your name = your internet presence

Me and a lab mate tried our names twice. And each time the display came up different. For me, I thought the first time definitely reflected me pretty well, but the second time it was not me at all.

I share a not too common name with a more than one person with significant internet presence. The result I got was an interesting admixture of these with perhaps a bit of me. Using a name as identifier is silly.

By BlindRobin (not verified) on 23 Aug 2009 #permalink