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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Online Artwork Takes on the Internet as an Accurate Information Aggregator

Click the pic to try it yourself!

The above image was created after entering my name into an online art piece called "Personas." After hitting "return" on my keyboard, a series of interesting things happen. It's hard to really express what happens--nothing mind blowing, but you watch as the above image is created based on data culled from the Internet. The piece was created by Aaron Zinman and the idea is to point out both how capable and how flawed the Internet is in determining who we are as people. Here's what I found on the official project page for Personas:

Personas is a component of the Metropath(ologies) exhibit, currently 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.

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.

Pretty neat idea considering just how much faith is put in this giant network we call the Web. Seems we humans are still necessary pieces of the information-gathering puzzle. Check it out for yourself and see what you learn about the Internet or about yourself (or folks with your name):

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